The United Nations refugee agency said Thursday it was deplorable that Brazil's top appeals court ruled that sex with a 12-year-old does not necessarily constitute statutory rape.
Amerigo Incalcaterra, head of the UNCHR's regional office for South America, said in a statement that last week's decision by Brazil's Superior Court of Justice creates a dangerous precedent and discriminates against victims.
"The sexual life of a child cannot be used to revoke its rights," he said.
The court ruled that a man accused of having sex with three 12-year-olds couldn't be convicted of rape because of extenuating circumstances, including the fact that the girls had previously worked as prostitutes.
Incalcaterra said governments must protect minors from all forms of violence, including sexual abuse.
"International human rights guidelines make it clear that a woman's sex life cannot be taken into consideration in trials regarding her rights and legal protection," the statement said.
One week ago, Amnesty International called the appeals court's decision "outrageous" and said it was an "affront to the most basic human rights."
"This shocking ruling effectively gives a green light to rapists and if it prevails could dissuade other survivors of sexual abuse from reporting these crimes," the head of the group's Brazil branch, Atila Roque, said in a statement.
Calls to the appeals court for comment went unanswered.