Europeans debate castration of sex offenders - International Herald Tribune
Whether castration can help rehabilitate violent sex offenders has come under new scrutiny after the Council of Europe's anti-torture committee last month called surgical castration "invasive, irreversible and mutilating" and demanded the Czech Republic stop offering the procedure to violent sex offenders. Other critics said that castration threatened to lead society down a dangerous road toward eugenics.
The Czech Republic has allowed at least 94 prisoners to be surgically castrated over the past decade. It is the only country in Europe that uses the procedure for sex offenders. Czech psychiatrists supervising the treatment - a one-hour operation that involves removal of the tissue that produces testosterone - insist that it is the most foolproof way to tame sexual urges in dangerous predators.Now, more countries in Europe are considering mandating or allowing chemical castration for violent sex offenders. There is intense debate over whose rights take precedence: those of violent sex offenders, who could be subjected to a punishment that many consider cruel, or those of society, which expects protection from sexual predators.
Poland is expected to become the first nation of the European Union to give judges the right to impose chemical castration on at least some convicted pedophiles, using hormonal drugs to curb sexual appetite; the impetus for the change was the arrest of a 45-year-old man in September who had fathered two children by his young daughter.
Spain is considering plans to offer chemical castration after a convicted pedophile killed a child.In its report, the committee also said that it had found cases of first-time, nonviolent offenders who had been surgically castrated, including mentally retarded men and exhibitionists. Although the procedure is voluntary, Butala said that he believed some offenders feel they have no choice.
"Sex offenders are requesting castration in hope of getting released from a life of incarceration," he said. "Is that really free and informed consent?"I don't understand how one can support surgical castration while simultaneously opposing the death penalty.In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that involuntary surgical castration constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Several states, including Texas, Florida and California, now allow or mandate chemical castration for certain convicted sex offenders.