November 29, 2023

Czech government defends castration for sex offenders

Criticised by the Council of Europe

A Czech sex offender after being sentence to life imprisonment for the rape and murder of a young boy Castration of sex offenders in the Czech Republic should stop, says the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee. Over the past 10 years 94 men have been surgically castrated -– all voluntarily, according to Czech authorities.

The Czech Republic is the only country in Europe to give sex offenders this option. Psychiatrists there insist that it is the only option for dealing with dangerous sexual predators. They insist that the operation is carried out with the free and informed consent of the prisoner.

However, the Council of Europe questioned the effectiveness of castration and declared that it was a violation of basic human rights and constituted "degrading treatment". Furthermore, it questioned whether it was really voluntary. Some prisoners, it said, had agreed only to avoid life imprisonment. After interviewing some sexual offenders and reviewing files, it found that "surgical castration was carried out not only on violent sex offenders but also on persons who had committed non-violent crimes, such as exhibitionism".

The effectiveness of castration, surgical or chemical, is debated. According to a Danish study conducted in the 1960s, recidivism for sex crimes dropped from 80% to 2.3%. However, critics argue that such statistics are based on self-reporting by offenders. Sexual deviance is largely a mental, not a physical, disorder and can persist even after castration. Besides, nowadays, it is possible to obtain testosterone over the internet.

Ales Butala, a Slovenian human rights lawyer who led the Council of Europe’s delegation to the Czech Republic, said that the committee had discovered three cases of castrated Czech sex offenders who had gone on to commit violent crimes, including paedophilia and attempted murder.

David Fathi, of Human Rights Watch, says the Czech methods are an affront to civil liberties. "Any irreversible punishment is a fundamental violation of human rights. And any kind of mutilation is barbaric," he told Time magazine. "There are no easy answers. but castration does not work any more than cutting off hands treats kleptomania." ~ Time, Feb 11; New York Times, Mar 10