- The Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA) and the Construction of a New Democratic and Citizen Culture as an Instrument for the Confrontation of Violence Against Children and Adolescents -a Brief Report of the Brazilian Position
This article proposes to contemplate the theme of violence, starting from the reference point of the Child and Adolescent Statute (hereafter, the ECA). This legal milestone originated from the 1988 Constitution, Art. 227, which provided for the creation of Law 9,069 of 13 July, 2000. This paper will reflect on some aspects of violence by contextualising it in the situation of childhood in Brazil by a theoretical cut-out as to what is understood as violence – more specifically, abuse and exploitation – and conveying some data about the Brazilian reality. Also, a brief report willbe given of some religious groups that established a new culture after committing themselves to the confrontation of violence against children and adolescents. Among the various experiences involved, the emphasis will be to highlight the Christian tradition as fueled by the reflectionsof liberation theology, which guided different groups to a political pronouncement. The approach of a gospel reading, which is lived daily and is the preferred option of the excluded, feeding the actions of both clergy and lay leadership, is presented in narratives of the actors involved in the process. [End Page 215]
I. Contextualising the Treatment of Children in Brazil: from The Code of Minors To the ECA
The attention paid to children in Brazil, from the end of the nineteenth century1 to current times, can be seen from various angles depending on the criteria selected, to occur minimally, or with limitations, considering the actions focused on this population group. The criteria chosen for this task incorporate the moments and the impact of the governmental and/or non-governmental measures which were taken during this historical trajectory.
According to Rizzini (1997), at the end of the nineteenth century concern with the child population in Brazil was characterised by an increase in philanthropic zeal, which replaced the charitable zeal characteristic of the previous period. The explanation for this is that, during the movement in Brazil from monarchy to republic, two conceptions regarding childhood emerged: 1) the child as a symbol of hope, the future of the country; 2) the child as a threat to public order. From the latter, the legal system took measures to establish the 'minors' category, considered to be poor, dangerous and delinquent. From the outset, considerations of public health dictated the norms of education and care within the domestic setting.
This child-minor delimitation also guided institutional educational attitudes towards childhood. According to Kuhlmann Jr (2002), the image of poor, delinquent children, belonging to homes without adequate food and with cases of alcoholism, determined institutional practices in seeking to protect children from this environment, and preventing them from becoming criminals. An example of this approach can be found in the discussions held at the Brazilian Congress of Childhood Protection (CBPI), which took place between August and September 1922 in Rio de Janeiro. The objective of this conference was to 'deal with all matters directly or indirectly related to children, from a social, medical, educational and health point of view in general, as well as specifically in their relations with Family, Society and the State' (ibid., p. 465).
During the interval between the Code of 1927 and the Code of 1979, the attention focused on children was evidenced by various public initiatives, such as the 1941 creation of SAM – Assistance Services for Minors – whose internment of children in hospitals was justified by the arguments supported by the Code of 1927. The problem of those over eighteen was solved by directing them towards the armed forces.
With the dismantling of SAM in 1964 (dismantling of the Service, not the protection policies regarding children then in effect), the National [End Page 216] Foundation for the Well-being of Minors and its counterparts in the individual states, the State Foundations of the Well-being of Minors (FEBEMs), were created. With the formulation and implantation of its programs...