Mar 21, 2024 - World

Report: Latin America's progress on helping sex abuse victims

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Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Latin America is on trend to abolish statutes of limitations on sex abuse crimes against minors, according to a recent report.

The big picture: The UN estimates that every minute, four minors in the region suffer some form of sexual abuse.

What to know: In the past few years, 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations have increased the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors and three have abolished them, according to the report.

  • "If this trend continues, Latin America will be among some of the first global regions to completely abolish" statute of limitations for these cases, the report says.
  • Chile and El Salvador in particular lead the way after establishing that these crimes can be tried indefinitely — changes that were prompted largely by clerical abuse scandals.
  • The report, published last week, is the first from the Global Statute of Limitations (SOL) Reform Task Force, established in 2022 by CHILD USA and the worldwide campaign Brave Movement.

What they're saying: "Chile is an example for every country, because this large scandal turned into activism. And the activism was so effective," says Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania scholar who's also the founder and director of nonprofit CHILD Global.

  • "These laws help set examples to the country that this was a criminal act and the criminal system is taking them seriously. And that also educates the public," she tells Axios Latino.

Yes, but: A major issue is that the Vatican has agreements with some nations that give it say in matters involving the church, including when it's a party in a criminal investigation.

  • Hamilton says those agreements can shield church-related sex crime perpetrators and suspects from the legal system.
  • This especially affects victims in Brazil and the Dominican Republic because the Vatican's agreements there are broader.

What's next: The Global SOL Task Force will now carry out more regional reports, starting with Europe, then African nations.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show the Global SOL Task Force will carry out reports in Europe, not Africa, next.

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