Saturday, June 15, 2024

Senate passes bill to require health sector to report abuse of minors

The Senate unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that obliges healthcare professionals who treat minors to report to authorities when a child or adolescent shows signs of abuse or violence. 

The reform to the General Law of Health, which has now been sent to the Chamber of Deputies for review, seeks to eliminate crimes against children and teenagers.

children in Zamora, Michoacan
Children at an orphanage in Zamora, Michoacán, where in 2014, the state brought charges of physical and sexual abuse of minors against the Casa Hogar de Mamá Rosa orphanage. (Juan José Estrada Serafin/Cuartoscuro)

It mandates that healthcare providers must inform hospital management if they treat a child or adolescent with injuries that could be related to violence or mistreatment.  Hospital management must then notify the state public prosecutor’s office. 

During the session, Senate Health Committee President Lilia Valdez Martínez said that physical abuse can occur in families, community and educational environments – places where children should feel safe and protected. The bill acknowledges that violence against children and adolescents also occurs online.

The bill also highlights that girls and adolescents are more prone to suffer sexual violence and psychological aggression in most settings, while men are usually the primary victims of homicide. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mexico had the highest levels of minor sexual abuse in the world in late 2021. UNICEF numbers estimate that an average of 3.4 children have been murdered every day in Mexico over the last seven years.

Valdez said health professionals play a key role in preventing such crimes. She also lamented a lack of data on the number of injured children and adolescents hospitalized due to acts of violence. 

According to the UNICEF Agenda of Childhood and Adolescence 2019–2024, six out of 10 children up to the age of 14 have experienced some form of violent discipline in Mexico. The most common type of violence is psychological (37.8%), followed by sexual (29.6%) and physical (26.3%), according to the national statistics agency, INEGI. 

Senator María Antonia Cárdenas Mariscal remarked upon the important step this reform represents in putting this issue “on the public agenda and [eradicating] violence against children.”

With reports from Siete24, El País, UNICEF, UNAM.

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