Age, Nationality, and the Unequal Distribution of Criminal Justice in Buenos Aires, 1878–1912

Friday, January 6, 2017: 4:10 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4C (Colorado Convention Center)
Julia Ogden, Front Range Community College
In the 1880s, age became a central element of both the definition of sexual crimes in Argentine penal law and the prosecution of sexual offenders in the criminal courts of Buenos Aires. With the institutionalization of age-based definitions of rape and deflowering, judges began to demand birth certificates as proof of the age of victims of assault. This paper examines the effects of these legal and judicial changes on the, primarily young, native and foreign-born victims who sought justice in the courts at the turn of the twentieth century. It argues that as a result of new legal definitions, judges treated immigrant and Argentine children differently, distributing distinct forms of justice to each group. Although the creation of a civil birth registry in 1884 made such information easily accessible for those born in the country, immigrant parents often failed to produce the required paperwork. As a result, judges either acquitted or handed down lesser sentences to the accused molesters of immigrant youth. A vision of the ways in which judicial practice, as part of the bureaucratization of the Argentine state in the late nineteenth century, differentiated “childhoods” based upon nationality reveals the complicity of the criminal justice system in the perpetuation of inequality in Latin America.
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