By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The latest survey by Datafolha shows that an overwhelming number of Brazilians are in favor of decreasing the age of criminal responsibility from eighteen to sixteen years old. According to the survey, more than 87 percent of those interviewed defended the measure which would allow authorities to prosecute anyone over sixteen as an adult.
The report, released on Monday, June 22nd, comes on the eve of a voting by the Chamber of Deputies on the issue. The subject has led to a fierce battle between those for the bill and those against it, including President Dilma Rousseff.
“The place for boys and girls is in school,” said President Dilma Rousseff in her social media accounts in April. According to President Rousseff the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility would be a step backwards for the country. The President agrees with some analysts that reducing the age of criminal responsibility is not the solution to solving the problem of juvenile wrongdoings.
Brazil’s Catholic Church has also spoken openly against decreasing the criminal responsibility age, stating that the measure is a threat to the rights now applied under the Child and Youth Statute.
According to the CNBB (Brazilian Bishops Conference) “during these moments of violence involving youths, myths and misconceptions are created, such as the idea that the reduction [of the criminal responsibility age] will resolve the problem of the lack of security.” According to the bishops locking away youths would exempt the state from doing what it is supposed to do – educate.
But according to the Datafolha survey, Brazilians are concerned about the increasing number of violent crimes committed by underage youths, who when caught usually are sent to juvenile facilities and released when they turn eighteen.
Among those surveyed who defend the reduction in age, 73 percent said they should be applied to any type of crime, while 27 percent agreed to the reduction only in certain types. In the past few months a number of high profile cases involving killings by youths have made the headlines and prompted Congress to take action. Today there are at least twenty bills in the Chamber of Deputies and ten in the Senate which seek more severe punishment for youths committing heinous crimes.
Last week a special commission at the Chamber of Deputies approved by 21 votes for and six against the bill introduced by Representative Laerte Bessa, after he altered the text to incorporate that the reduction of criminal responsibility age would only be applied to those youths committing violent acts, such as murder, rape and aggravated robbery.
Chamber Speaker, Eduardo Cunha, has promised to vote on the bill by June 30th. Since this the bill is an amendment to the Brazilian Constitution it must pass through both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate with at least two-thirds of the votes and not a simple majority plus one, as in a regular bill.