Chemical Castration – Humane or Insane?

In early September, Krzysztof B. was arrested in the village of Grodzisk, near Siemiatycze, after allegedly imprisoning and raping his now 21-year-old daughter, Alicja B., since 2002. The daughter was forced to give up her two sons, aged three and 22 months, for adoption, and it is believed that Krzysztof B. is also their father. Though there are some significant differences between the case of Krzysztof B. and Austrian Josef Fritzl, the former has nonetheless already been dubbed the “Polish Fritzl” by the media. In response, PM Donald Tusk has pushed for legislation to require mandatory chemical castration for incorrigible paedophiles. Below, James Sinclair and Robert Szmigielski debate the merits and downsides, respectively, of mandatory castration.

FOR: Amidst the media frenzy and public outrage surrounding the case of the “Polish Fritzl,” Donald Tusk has seized the opportunity to gain public support for his plans to make chemical castration a mandatory part of repeat-offender paedophiles’ sentences.

Tusk’s use of the case to support his agenda muddies the waters: Krzysztof B. is neither a paedophile by Polish law (the legal age of consent is 15), nor by medical definition, which states that paedophilia is the recurrence of sexual urges towards children of prepubescent age (in most cases this means 13 or under). Krzysztof B.’s high profile crimes may lend sensationalist favour to Tusk’s cause but I shall not refer to them.

In tackling the problem of paedophiles, we should not be led into a morally grounded witch hunt in which all paedophiles are labelled as “evil” and “subhuman,” but rather we must sensibly admit that these seriously ill people pose a very real threat to the lives of Poland’s children. By extension we must also weigh up the damage of paedophilic behaviour when determining what measures are reasonable in countering it.

Father and mothers need no persuading, and those with any imagination need little more, to understand the absolutely ruinous effect a paedophile’s crimes can have on a young life. Rape is rightly considered one of the worst forms of torture, not just for the extreme physical pain it causes but for the lifelong psychological damage it inflicts. Victims typically feel extreme depression, humiliation, lack of self worth, are unable to enjoy healthy sexual relationships (often ruining their chances of happy marriage, or long-term relationships), not to mention the possibility of unwanted children or the passing on of life-affecting sexual diseases. Rape of a minor therefore can be considered akin to the torturing of a child, and the most abominable crime imaginable – whether you choose to blame the paedophile or not for his unnatural urges. Living with the physical and psychological scars of sexual abuse is a terrible burden for anyone to bear, let alone for a child whose young life should be full of only joy and promise.

The solution? Well neither I, nor Donald Tusk, are suggesting we stamp down on every first time sex offender with obligatory chemical castration, but if a paedophile repeatedly offends and continues to destroy life after life, surely they sacrifice some of their human rights? Ultimately we have to make a choice about who we want to protect, our children or incurably ill sexual deviants. Chemical castration (which many paedophiles have chosen of their own volition) provides a humane way to deal with a group of people whose predatory behaviour consigns young children to a shattered half-life of misery and unfulfilment. It may not be politically correct to think about the victim for once, but when you balance countless children losing their chance of happiness versus a few paedophiles losing their sex drives, only someone with a very skewed sense of justice would argue against chemical castration.

AGAINST: The tragic and sickening events that occurred in Siemiatycze have quickened the pulses and angered us all, and understandably feelings are running high. Not the time for rash decisions, one would think. But, lo and behold, up pops a sabre-rattling Donald Tusk, who, instead of calming the furore, foolhardily declares that Poland will be the only country in the civilised world to force chemical castration on convicted paedophiles and sexual offenders.

More is expected from a head of government; at times like these, rational debate should be encouraged, not knee-jerk reactions that remind us of the incompetent (but endlessly entertaining) days of the Kaczynskis. Unfortunately, Tusk’s decision smacks of an attempt to resurrect waning support.

Chemical castration is nothing new; many countries administer the treatment, but only with the consent of the individual – to force it is a breach of one’s human right to procreate. Many will argue that upon violating the human rights of their victim, a sexual offender relinquishes their own, but as a modern society, long gone is the philosophy of “an eye for an eye” – which Gandhi famously declared, blinds us all.

Let’s look at the facts: paedophilia is widely recognised by doctors and psychologists as a mental illness (like schizophrenia) and as such, the sufferer – who more often than not was themselves abused as a child – must be treated, not locked away and punished. They are not driven by sexual urges, but by mental imbalances, rendering the use of hormonal suppression by use of chemicals totally useless. As the American Civil Liberties Union argues, “mandatory chemical castration… fails to treat the psychological roots of sexually deviant behaviour,” a claim backed by sexologists across the globe.

Also, according to sexology experts in Poland, only one in 10 of those convicted of sexually abusing children are paedophiles, while the rest are simply primitive individuals who are not ill, but depraved and demoralised, thus medical treatment is not required. Therefore, if not sick, they must be treated as criminals, meaning: once tried, convicted, and having served their sentence, they must be allowed to walk free. This is one of the fundamental principles of a civilised society, and there can be no exceptions ? no matter how unpleasant the offence. Chemical castration, aside from its ineffectiveness, would be an additional punishment for an offender who already paid the price for his crimes.

Furthermore, Tusk’s idea is formed on the presumption that the criminal will re-offend. This would give the state the means to punish somebody for a crime they have not yet committed, and would set a dangerous precedent. Suddenly the elaborately woven world of Minority Report, where people are arrested and punished for “thought-crime,” is not as outlandish as first thought.

The state mustn’t be allowed to exploit the hysteria surrounding the disgusting actions of an individual by passing a law that has the potential to mutate into something more sinister. Just look at the U.S. and Great Britain, where civil liberties are slowly and discreetly being picked apart under the guise of “national security.” Do you want to live in a society where you are told what you think, and accused and punished for something that you may or may not do? I certainly don’t.

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