By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Lawmakers passed on first reading Monday night
a bill that discourages marriage by persons
under 18. The measure also stipulates prison
penalties for older individuals involved in
sexual relations with minors.
Lawmaker Otto Guevara opposed the measure and
said he will ask for a Sala IV ruling.
The bill also prohibits amorous relationships
by adults and anyone who is their student.
This is one of those hard to enforce,
feel-good measures that followed a disclosure
that a 40-year-old public school teacher had
contracted marriage with a 15-year-old male
The Ministerio de Educación Pública said that
there have been 24 complaints of this since
In addition, lawmakers heard that the Hospital
de Niños said that 85 percent of pregnancies
of those 15 years and younger involve adult
The bill would not change any penalties
dealing with rape. The measure addresses
consensual sex and marriage. It also
eliminates the right of parents to approve
marriage for an underage child.
Specifically the bill would impose a prison
term of from three to six years for sexual
relations when the minor is 13 to 15 and the
other partner is five or more years older.
A penalty of from two to three years is set
for anyone seven or more years older who
engages in sexual relations with a minor who
is from 15 to 18.
The measure also expands the incest penalty,
which is four to 10 years in prison, for
uncles, aunts, brothers, cousins or anyone in
a position of confidence or authority with
respect to a minor family member.
The list covers adopted children.
The age of consent for sexual relations now is
15 if there is no monetary inducement
involved. That also is the age for marriage
with parental consent. The new measure
eliminates the possibility that two minors
would be in violation of the law if they
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engaged in sexual relations. Current
law would penalize this.
The bill doesn’t really create a crime of
contracting marriage with a minor. It just
prohibits the Registro Civil for recording the
ceremony. But absent a marriage certificate,
prosecutors may seek the other penalties even if
the couple has participated in a wedding
Most prison penalties are not enforced by
courts if they are three years or less.
Costa Rica already has penalties for some of
the activities prohibited by the law. They are
hardly ever enforced. Minors who have
babies generally do not disclose in an
official way the name of the father, although
they may file for child support.
Maureen Clarke Clarke, head of the Partido
Liberación Nacional in the assembly introduced
the bill, but it was not considered urgent
until the story of the 40-year-old teacher
Lawmakers who voted for the bill generally
felt that it was a matter of human rights for
minors. Some called the minor involved in a
sexual relationship a victim. They also cited
United Nations guidelines.
Specifically women under 18 should not be
involved in marriage or less formal
relationships, called uniones, which
violate their right to be free of sexual harm
and adequate development associated with the
condition of gender or age, said Lawmaker
Ms. Clarke noted that a 2011 census showed
that 8.6 percent of women between 12 and 19
are married or in uniones libres. The
latter is more frequent in rural areas, she