Prohibition of all corporal punishment in Costa Rica (2008)

Corporal punishment is prohibited in all settings and by all persons with authority over children, including by parents in the home, under a law enacted in June 2008. Up to this time, corporal punishment had been lawful under article 143 of the Family Code, which stated that "paternal authority confers rights and imposes the duty to educate, are for, watch over and, with moderation, correct the son or daughter". The Code on Children and Adolescents protected children from abuse and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (article 13) and to physical, psychological and moral integrity (article 24), but did not prohibit all corporal punishment of children.

In October 2005, the Criminal Court of Cassation of the Second Circuit Court of San Jose stated that article 143 of the Family Code could "in no way be interpreted as a general authorization for parents or guardians of minors to hurt them without being punished for that action or simply to dispose of their lives as they please" and that "even though vested with parental rights and duties have no 'right' to hurt their children" (Judgment: 2005-1062, Case No. 02-002448-0369-PE-(3)).

In June 2008, the Family Code and the Code on Children and Adolescents were amended by Law No. 8654 on the Right of Children and Adolescents to Discipline without Corporal Punishment and Humiliating Treatment. Article 143 of the Family Code was amended to state:

Parental authority confers the rights and imposes the duties to orient, educate, care, supervise and discipline the children, which in no case authorises the use of corporal punishment or any other form of degrading treatment against the minors."

At the same time, a new article was added to the Code on Children and Adolescents, as part of the provisions on "The Rights of Personality". Article 24bis is entitled "The right to discipline free from corporal punishment and other degrading forms of treatment", and explicitly prohibits all forms of corporal punishment in all settings:

Children and adolescents have a right to receive counselling, education, care and discipline from their mother, father or tutor, as well as from their caretakers or the personnel from educational and health centres, shelters, youth detention or any other type of centres, that in no way represents an authorisation of any sort to these parties for the use of corporal punishment or degrading treatment.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia shall coordinate with the institutions conforming to the National Integral Protection System and NGOs, for the implementation of educational campaigns and programmes directed to parents and other adults in custodial or caring roles."

Significantly, a report issued by the Legislative Ad-hoc Subcommission (File No. 15.34) confirms that dissenting opinions on prohibition have been taken into account in enacting prohibition. It states:

It is important to state that the amendments hereby addressed are the result of a consensus reached by and between the various organisations promoting the project and those congressmen and congresswomen who initially opposed such initiative, since the final text takes into consideration and incorporates their points of view."


Further information

  • Global Initiative country report for Costa Rica
  • Law No. 8654 on the Right of Children and Adolescents to Discipline without Corporal Punishment and Humiliating Treatment (Spanish)


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