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By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The ECA, or Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente (Child and Adolescent Statute) in Brazil has released a report signifying 25 years of operation, and despite successes in reducing infant mortality and helping young children attend school, the trends for adolescents were in the opposite direction.

Ângela Guimarães speaking about the age of criminal responsibility in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Ângela Guimarães speaking to the House about the age of criminal responsibility in Brazil, photo by Paulo Motoryn/SNJ.

Government media reported that experts are calling for the expansion of funds to be invested in children and adolescents in order to reverse indicators such as mortality rates for adolescents between 16 and 18 years and the drop-out young people in high school.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the number of murders of young adolescents in Brazil rose from about three in 1990 to more than 24 a day last year.

In parallel and controversial developments to these disturbing trends, Brazil has seen popular support of reducing the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 years old. In June more than 87 percent of those interviewed defended the measure which would allow authorities to prosecute anyone over sixteen as an adult.

In a statement on July 7th, Ângela Guimarães, Assistant Secretary of the National Youth Secretariat (SNJ) and president of the National Youth Council (CONJUVE) said, “We can not forget the contradiction: the same House that today honors the ECA, is the House which approved the reduction of legal age in the first round [but, to] honor the ECA is to stop the reduction.”

In regard to the drastic increase in adolescent murders, the coordinator of the Citizenship Program of UNICEF Teens, Mario Volpi told Agencia Brasil media. “[We can] see that the country has made a major change in the protection of children’s lives, but failed to protect adolescents, especially blacks and those living in poor communities.”

Since the ECA was formed in 1990, the percentage of children enrolled in primary school jumped from eighty percent to over 98 percent, according to the Ministry of Education, as compiled by UNICEF. In high school, however, about fifty percent of adolescents between 15 and 17 are not in school.

On the positive side in the last 25 years the ECA reports that Brazil was able to reduce child deaths before one year of age by 24 percent. A survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), based on Ministry of Health data shows that the rate increased from fifty per thousand live births, in the late 1990s to twelve today.

“On the issue of child mortality, Brazil made a major breakthrough and the [ECA] saved the lives of many children, ensuring their development,” Mario Volpi of UNICEF told Agencia Brasil.

The reduction of child mortality, according to the coordinator of the National Human Rights Movement in São Paulo, the lawyer Ariel de Castro, is due to providing the right to health, the care of pregnant women, and the priority given to child health, prenatal and postpartum care.

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