HAVANA._ Bullying is a phenomenon that, over the past decades, has had a heavy impact on children and adolescents, and reflects endemic social inequality in Latin America.
Official statistics indicate that seven of every 10 children in Latin America are victims of this harassment that can start with a simple jeer but whose outcome may often be fatal.
The phenomenon usually involves physical or psychological harassment by one or more children on others that are usually younger, less confident, or defenseless.
Coming home with broken objects, frequent crying, fear of going to school, and an aversion to situations of conflict are some of the symptoms that characterize children victims of bullying.
According to Monica Darer, a children’s rights expert with the NGO Plan Internacional, in Latin America, “70 percent of children are directly or indirectly affected by bullying at school by either having been harassed or by having witnessed it.”
Various studies reveal that Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Panama are among the nations most affected by the scourge.
Experts consider that bullying, an overtly common phenomenon in the United States and of which many Latinos have been victims, is mainly rooted in high levels of inequality, discrimination, and intolerance towards groups or individual people of a different physical appearance or marginal condition.
Some children suffer harassment on a daily basis.
Many girls, experts say, suffer psychological and emotional rather than physical violence, although the latter often also takes place.
While there are diverse manifestations of bullying and often involve cruel jokes, ridicules, laughter, mean namecalling, and beating. Sometimes, money is demanded in return for not being beaten or not having something revealed that could cause the victim great embarrassment.
There are dozens of examples that have resulted in tragedies.
The case of 14-year-old Clinton Maylle is still fresh in the entire nation of Peru. Due to his provincial origins and his love of studying, the boy suffered frequent attacks by his classmates until one fateful day in 2010 he was beaten so brutally by three boys that he was left paralyzed for life.
According to what the young Mayelle has told the press, the images of that day that turned into a nightmare as he left school, remain latent in his mind.
Other cases of this phenomenon – which has tripled over the years – have taken place in Colombia; a nation marked by violence and where bullying is daily news on local TV.
One of the more recent cases took place in August 2014 when a 16- year old student, a victim of discrimination in his school after having acknowledged his homosexuality, committed suicide in Bogota.
There have been dozens of cases reported during the past year in Paraguay where, for the first time in the nation’s history, two girls were sentenced for having bullied a third with physical violence and gross offences that forced the latter to change schools.
Because the perpetrators were minors, they were sentenced to six months community service and sent to compulsory psychological counselling.
In an interview posted by the Argentinean website www.mediaciony violencia.com.ar, doctor Luciana Cataldi, an expert on the subject, claimed that the conspiracy of silence that exists in Latin America between colleagues, schools, and families is what is most surprising.
The expert, who urges institutional responsibility and vigilance regarding the physical and psychic welfare of children as well as their right to be educated in a safe environment, points to a seeming tendency to sympathize more with the aggressor than with the victim.
In the U.S. and other parts of the continent, the arrival of new technology has brought with it a new form of “cyber-bullying” by means of social networks.
Experts believe that cyber-bullying is all the more serious as the aggressions, and thereby the victim’s shame and humiliation, are made public by mobile phone, Facebook, Youtube, among others.
There seems to be no end in sight to bullying as figures rise exponentially with the passing of time.
Even though certain countries such as Argentina have made steps in the right direction by having passed laws, there is still a long way to go and much work to be done between education centers, teachers, training colleges, and families in order to ensure that no more children are condemned to suffer.Share on FB Share on TT