Protecting Argentina : lawmaking, children and sexual crimes in Buenos Aires, 1853-1921

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Rahe, Julia Grace

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"Protecting Argentina" explores how the definitions of sexual crimes (rape, seduction, abduction and the corruption of minors) changed in Argentine penal law during the process of congressional codification between 1853 and 1921. It contextualizes an in-depth analysis of legal definitions within the legislative process and the shifting ideologies of criminology that influenced it. It argues that, as nineteenth century positivist criminology replaced Enlightenment-inspired "Classical" criminology, the meaning and foundational presupposition of these crimes shifted from those of their colonial predecessors. Where in colonial times "Acts of lechery" were criminal when committed against chaste women, in the republican era, the law punished "Crimes against honesty" when the victims were children. Liberal lawmakers defined these sexual acts primarily by the age of the victim and secondarily by the violence used in their perpetration. The year 1903 was a watershed in this process, as it marked Positivism's displacement of "Classical" criminology as the guiding ideology of criminal law. These conclusions suggest there were substantive correlations between elite campaigns to ensure the future of the nation by saving children and the codification of national criminal law undertaken by Congress. As argentine elites began to witness what they perceived to be the negative effects of modernization, rapid population growth, industrialization and the accompanying increase in crime, they sought to ensure the future of the nation through "child saving" campaigns. The increasingly age-based definitions of sexual crimes, which aimed to protect young victims, fit within the broader state-led campaign to protect future citizens. "Protecting Argentina" therefore suggests that historians should consider legislative processes of state building as forming an integral part of turn-of-the-century nationalist projects in Latin America. Tying together positivist penology, nationalist discourse, and congressional codification, this report places children at the center of Argentine elites' attempts to ensure the future of the nation through the protection of children.




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