The government of Indonesia will being to introduce the practice of “chemical castration” into their criminal justice system as a way to keep convicted pedophiles from repeat crimes and as a deterrence to potential criminals. Chemical castration involves the use of hormones to subdue and eliminate the libido of a sex offender.
“We are very concerned about child molestation abuse cases. This phenomenon has reached extraordinary levels,” Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said on Tuesday, announcing that he would push for President Joko Widodo to sign a decree allowing the practice of chemical castration for convicted pedophiles. “It has been agreed that there will be additional punishment in order to make people think a thousand times before doing this,” he added.
Indonesia has been facing an epidemic of child sex crimes that has grown exponentially in the past years. When the government first announced it was exploring the option of chemical castration in May, there had been more than 400 documented cases of child sexual abuse in the first four months of the year. A larger-scale analysis found that the number of cases had increased from 2,178 in 2011 to 5,066 cases in 2014. As these numbers only take into consideration cases in which the sex offender was caught, it is believed that the real number of sex abuse cases is even higher.
Child sex abuse is not a new concern for Indonesia, however. The nation long ago developed a reputation as a safe haven for foreigners looking to engage in sexual activity with children and not have to face criminal consequences. In a report titled “A Paradise for Pedophiles,” The Sydney Morning Herald described Indonesia in 2006 as a nation that “turns a blind eye to pedophile activity.” The newspaper found individual cases of Australian pedophiles who had personally abused of more than 50 boys. A 2011 report in The Australian similarly blames “apathy, poverty, corruption and a convoluted bureaucracy” for the ease with which pedophiles appear to find access to child prostitution rings in Indonesia. “The police don’t do surveillance because they prefer the children to report first, to give evidence. But the children don’t like to report to police,” Bali-based psychiatrist Ni Luh Suryani told The Australian.
Widodo, who became president of Indonesia last year, appears determined to change Indonesia’s international image regarding child prostitution and sexual abuse. Deputy Health minister Ali Gufron Mukti explained to Voice of America earlier in the year that he was optimistic that chemical castration would help prevent recidivism in criminals who had served their sentences. The maximum sentence in Indonesia for sexual abuse of children is currently 15 years. “Aside from the punishment, this will be a type of therapy for the offender to reduce his uncontrollable desires. With this hormonal injection, the desire to find other victims can be repressed. The impact is quite tremendous,” Mukti said.
CNN defined chemical castration in 2012 as “administering medication — via injection or tablets — to take away sexual interest and make it impossible for a person to perform sexual acts. The effects are reversible, after the person stops taking the drug.” Some human rights groups, like Amnesty International, have called the forced administration of hormones to a sex criminal a human rights violation. “Imposition of forced medical procedures amounts to a recourse to inhuman treatment,” the group said of the practice, clarifying that “any crime shall be punished in a way that abides by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Clearly, in case of minors raped public opinion tilts towards harsher sentences. Nevertheless, we should fight crimes with legal and adequate tools.
A number of other states use chemical castration in either forced or voluntary ways. Some U.S. states, like California and Texas, offer both chemical and physical castration as an option to sex offenders. In California, castration has become a somewhat popular way for sex offenders to be freed of their legal burden. Experts note the practice may only help certain offenders. “Surgery is most likely to work for offenders whose sex drive motivates their crimes, such as pedophiles or those aroused by coercive sex,” one expert told ABC News, “but offenders who commit sex crimes for other reasons, like those who lack a conscience or abuse drugs or alcohol, probably would not benefit from surgery.”