Sex crimes against children no longer protected by statute of limitations in Chile


SANTIAGO – Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera signed into law on Thursday a bill whereby the statute of limitations on sex crimes involving children ceases to apply. However, the new law is not retroactive as some lawmakers intended during parliamentary deliberation.

 “Starting today, the passing of time will never again be an accomplice to those who abuse our children, nor an ally of impunity,” Piñera said.

This decision comes at a time when the country’s Catholic Church has been involved in over 200 such scandals.

Under the previous legislation, the statute of limitations ranged between five and 10 years, depending on the nature of the crime, if the victim failed to file a complaint, something that happens very often in this type of offenses.

Para proteger mejor la inocencia y niñez feliz de nuestros niños y niñas, hoy promulgamos la ley que termina con la prescripción de los delitos sexuales contra niños. Así nunca más el solo paso del tiempo significará impunidad para los abusadores o sus cómplices o encubridores.— Sebastian Piñera (@sebastianpinera) July 11, 2019

The bill was first proposed back in 2010 and stayed dormant in Congress until Piñera revived it last year, following Pope Francis’ visit, during which the involvement of priests of all hierarchies in cases of child abuse resurfaced.

The pontiff even challenged a reporter at the airport to produce evidence of those allegations before taking any action. And his strong-looking arm was twisted in a matter of months by the overwhelming proof now in the hands of judicial authorities, who are investigating more than 150 cases of sexual abuse or cover-up by the Catholic Church.

The new law applies to crimes of rape, sexual abuse, the production of pornographic materials and prostitution involving children and adolescents.

“The responsibility of those who abuse our children will be indelible, as is the indelible pain they caused,” Piñera underlined at la Moneda presidential palace.

“We all know that reporting sexual abuse is very difficult, especially for those who suffered sexual abuse during their childhood or adolescence,” Piñera said.

The president said that between 2015 and 2018 the reports of sexual abuse increased by 33 percent and last year exceeded 10,000 cases, although those figures were far from showing the real magnitude of the problem.

According to an estimate by the Chilean prosecutor’s office cited by Piñera, for each victim of sexual abuse who files a complaint, there are seven other minors who were also abused and did not report it.

“Silence is due to fear, guilt, shame, traumas, suffering and abuse of power, because behind sexual abuse there are often abuses of power, manipulation, and networks of cover-up,” he explained.