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Social Cleansing in Colombia: The War on Street Children (From Hate Crime: The Global Politics of Polarization, P 135-149, 1998, Robert J. Kelly and Jess Maghan, eds. -- See NCJ-179424)

NCJ Number
Suzanne Wilson; Julia Greider-Durango
Date Published
15 pages
This essay examines Colombia’s war on street children.
A form of hate crime known as social cleansing specifically targets groups who are labeled as undesirable by Colombian society or a segment of it. One of these groups of “disposable people” is street children. Every week Colombian social workers report finding the bodies of street children who have been shot, burned, suffocated, or beaten to death by death squads and vigilantes and, on occasion, by the police. Although the right-wing ideology of cleansing society is at the core of hate crime in Colombia, the collective apathy and tolerance of Colombian society silently allows the social cleansing to take place. The essay describes a typical day in the life of street children, how and why they became street children, and some of the things they do to survive. The paper also describes the minimal law enforcement and judicial responses to social cleansing. It suggests reforms, including the appointment of special task forces and prosecutors to investigate social cleansing and paramilitary groups; sensitivity training for police officers; legal sanctions against officers accused of violence toward street children; and restrictions on police participation in off-duty security employment. Notes