Parliament in Poland has passed a law making castration a suitable punishment for pedophiles convicted of rape and perpetrators of incest. Under the law anyone found guilty of raping children under 15, or close relatives, will be given drugs to lower their sex drive. Chemical castration for repeat sex offenders is already offered in several U.S. states, as well as European countries including Sweden, Germany and Denmark. However, it is a voluntary process. Poland's law would be the first to make it compulsory, and that has angered Brussels.
The law had its genesis in the public outrage to arise after a 45-year-old man was charged with having raped and held his 21-year-old daughter captive for six years.
The suspect was dubbed Poland's Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man guilty of locking up his daughter and fathering seven children with her.
Deutche Welle picks up the story:
The woman in Poland gave birth to two children, in 2005 and 2007, allegedly from her father. She maintains that he pressured her to give them up for adoption.
The case triggered debate in Poland on how to punish sex offenders, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, shedding any liberal tendencies to score as many political points as possible in Catholic Poland.
"I want to gather all the laws in operation across Europe to introduce in Poland the most rigorous law possible regarding criminals who rape children," Tusk said.
"I do not believe that we can call these individuals -- these creatures -- human beings," he added. "So in this case, we don't need to discuss human rights."
But, according to Impunity Watch Europe, Tusk and his center-right government also tried to paint their efforts as best for the "creatures."
"The purpose of this action is 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." Prime Minister Donald Tusk added, even more controversially, that he does not believe that one can "use the term 'human' for such individuals, such creatures . . . [and] [t]herefore I don't think protection of human rights should refer to these kind of events."
Impunity Watch Europe notes the tamer Czech version castration law has come in for criticism from within European institutions.
Lawmakers in the Czech Republic introduced a similar measure in 2000, but there castration is not mandatory. Instead, sex offenders can volunteer for either surgical or chemical castration. Even this non-mandatory legislation has drawn criticism from the Council of Europe's anti-torture committee. The mandatory nature of the Polish law would make it the first of its kind of any nation in the world at the federal level, since some states in the United States have individually enacted similar laws.
Whether castration does what it's supposed to do: squelch the temptations pedophiles feel, well the jury is out on that, as Time magazine has reported.
Despite many studies of the effectiveness of castration — both surgical and chemical — the results are inconclusive. Some surveys suggest castration can dramatically reduce recidivism. One 1989 survey in Germany of 104 voluntary castrates showed a 75% drop in sexual interest, libido, erection and ejaculation. But measuring such changes is notoriously difficult and often depends on the subjective self-reports of sex offenders. A 1989 Psychological Bulletin study concluded that "the recidivism rate for treated offenders is not lower than that for untreated offenders; if anything, it tends to be higher." Many other studies emphasize the mental nature of deviant sexual interests, which cannot be cured through surgery. Fred S. Berlin, associate professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, argues that even if most sexual offenders cannot be cured, many can be successfully treated through counseling. "It depends on the availability of adequate community-based resources, in some instances following a period of residential care," he says.
Maybe the Polish experiment will make the matter clearer.