Chemical Castration May Become Law in Poland

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A new law making chemical castration mandatory for men and women who rape close relatives or children younger than age 15 has passed the Polish parliament’s lower house. The bill must be approved by both the upper house of parliament and President Lech Kaczynski before it can go into effect, and both are expected to support it.

Currently in Poland, sex offenders can choose chemical castration to help them curb their sexual urges. If Poland passes mandatory chemical castration, it will be the first country in Europe to do so. The law would also apply to individuals who rape a close relative, although no specific age limits have been set. The new law would also increase the maximum prison term for rape of children younger than 15 to 15 years rather than 12.

Chemical castration is actually a misnomer, as “castration” is the removal of the testicles or ovaries. Chemical castration is the use of drugs that suppress sexual urges; no surgery is involved. Administration of chemical castration typically begins before a convicted sex offender is released from prison and is supposed to continue throughout his or her lifetime.

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Civil rights groups have criticized the move, while the Polish government made a statement (Reuters) that the reasons for making chemical castration mandatory in such cases was to “improve the mental health of the convict, to lower his libido and thereby to reduce the risk of another crime being committed by the same person.”

In the United States, California was the first state to mandate chemical castration for sex offenders found guilty a second time. After California passed its measure in 1996, several other states quickly followed with similar laws, including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin. Since then other states have followed as well.

Chemical castration involves the administration of anti-androgen (anti-sex hormone) drugs, including Depo-Provera (an injection that lasts about three months) or cyproterone. For some people, chemical castration is a controversial issue: is it a humane alternative to surgical castration that protects innocent people in the general population once the sex offender is released; or is it a cruel and unusual punishment and a breach of civil liberties? In Poland, the government is nearly ready to go ahead with mandatory chemical castration for selected sex offenders beginning six months before their release from prison.

SOURCES:
CBC News September 25, 2009
New York Times, August 27, 1996
Reuters September 25, 2009

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