- Site Feedback
- IDEA Sites
- Digital Freedoms
- International Justice
- 2012 Presidential Debates Guide
- Asia Youth Forum
- Big Apple Cogers
- Debate Changing Europe
- Debate in the Neighborhood
- Debating and Producing Media
- Debating the Future of Youth in Africa and Europe
- Dialogue without borders
- Digital Debating Blog
- Free Speech Debate
- Global Youth Forum
- Global Debate and Public Policy Challenge
- International Public Policy Forum
- Online Mentoring
- Securing Liberty Series
- Youth and Sports Mega-Events
- League of Young Voters
This House would castrate sex offenders
This House would castrate sex offenders
Many people consider sexual abuse one of the worst crimes a person can commit. In these circumstances, it has been proposed by some that such an offender should be punished, normally in addition to a jail term, by castration. Castration is the removal of the sex glands, and is normally defined as a chemical process, using hormones to render them impotent. The goal of such an operation would be to remove the sexual drive of sex offenders which, proponents of the procedure advocate, would drastically reduce the chances of re-offending. Opponents of the punishment argue, in contrast, that the punishment does not fit the crime and that it would not deter sex offenders once freed.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Castration, as a punishment, is proportionate to sex crimes||Legal systems should not impose physical punishments upon convicts|
|Sex offenders have a right to seek treatment for the urge to re-offend||Castration is not an effective means of preventing recidivism amongst sex offenders|
|A policy of castration will reduce the public hysteria and panic surrounding sex crimes||Castration reinforces the myth that sex crimes are motivated by sexual desire, not power|
|The state has a duty to take effective steps to protect the public from sex offenders|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Castration, as a punishment, is proportionate to sex crimes
Sex crimes, typically defined as crimes of violence involving sex, are one of the worst kinds of crime, damaging its victim both physically and psychologically. For such a horrific crime, a suitable punishment is needed. Castration fits the bill perfectly. It has been shown that for many sex offenders, the crime is caused by both psychological and physical urges – no rational counselling will prevent a repetition of the crime. Thus castration does not only stop further crimes by the offender (one of the main purposes of any punishment), but it is a strong deterrent for prospective offenders. Furthermore, as Douglas Besharov argues, the ‘sexual abuse and violence in prisons merely heightens their propensity to commit further crime’ (Besharow, 1992). Castration as the punishment for sex offenders suits both perpetrator and victim, providing an effective and specific punishment for a specific crime.Improve this
Castration is not a fitting punishment for any crime.
Our extreme personal disgust at the actions of sex offenders must be separated from the administration of a suitable punishment. Sex offenders may all be guilty of the same category of crime, but motives differ from individual to individual. Subsequently, their rehabilitative needs are distinct and unique; rational counselling could indeed work perfectly well for certain offenders. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the ‘coerced administration of any drug’, stating chemical castration is a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ constituting ‘not a medical treatment, but rather an additional form of punishment for sex offenders’ due to the nature of their crime (Spalding, 1997).Improve this
Sex offenders have a right to seek treatment for the urge to re-offend
Castration will help the offenders themselves, by freeing them from the urges that motivate them to re-offend. Court testimony has shown that many sexual criminals would dearly like to be free of these urges, but cannot control their actions, much like a heroin addict cannot control theirs. Thus a chemical cure for these urges will free the offender. Dr. Martin Holly, a leading sexologist in Prague, admitted ‘none of the nearly 100 sex offenders who had been physically castrated had committed further offenses (Bilefsky, 2009)’. Dr. Fred Berlin, citing separate studies, claimed re-offending rates dropped below 15% when participants were chemically castrated (Spalding, 1997).Improve this
Castration is an inadequate means of ‘freeing’ sex offenders from the potential to re-offend. Even if castration is combined with a jail term, it is still a far cruder and less effective treatment than prolonged psychotherapy. Chemical castration does not even begin to get at the psychological roots of the offender, focusing instead on a swift, easy solution to a problem that runs far deeper. Dr.Fred Berlin, in the same source mentioned opposite, believes ‘there are many sex offenders for whom this is not going to be appropriate or useful’ (Spalding, 1997). Also, the proposition’s argument places the legal emphasis on helping the offender, and may give the appearance of being a ‘soft touch’ on such people.Improve this
A policy of castration will reduce the public hysteria and panic surrounding sex crimes
Castration will also help the widespread hysteria about the crimes of a sexual nature. At the moment, there is a massive stigmatisation of sexual offenders, with them being ‘named and shamed’ publicly (for example, by the News of the World newspaper in Britain in the summer of 2000), and hounded off their estates by mobs (as can be seen from the events after the News of The World campaign ). They are also subject to a large amount of violence in prison from other inmates. If castration is introduced, the public would know that these people are no longer a threat, and they would be allowed to get on with their lives. Castration removes both the public stigmatisation and personal suffering of sexual offenders, and should be embraced by the penal system.Improve this
There would be no such benefit. The proposition has admitted that witch hunts take place over sexual offenders, and these are by definition not motivated by rational considerations. Castration would not end public anxiety; just as declaring a mass murderer rehabilitated would not put his neighbours at ease. Also, the prison violence, and indeed other violence, is not so much motivated by a fear of re-offence as by the desire to punish further for the original crime. Castration would not help under these circumstances. It is an unproven and unsubtle method that deserves no place in a modern penal system.Improve this
The state has a duty to take effective steps to protect the public from sex offenders
The legislative and executive branches of the state is equipped with the power to order sentencing that best suits both the offender and society. For sex offenders that are adjudged to be at risk of re-offending no matter how long or harsh the prison sentence, castration should be ordered. Sexual castration would only be ordered however for those offenders whom it would almost certainly reduce the risk of re-offending, for it attacks the root, hormonal causes of their criminal activity. Once administered, the offender could be assessed and released if it was felt that his rehabilitation was complete and he was no further risk to society.Improve this
The precedence established by allowing the state to order that an individual be subjected to physical harm (separate and short of death) is a slippery slope to the infliction of harm on offenders in other areas of the law. If sex offenders are to be castrated, why not follow the example of Saudi Arabia and cut off the hands of those convicted of theft? Furthermore, capital punishment is still permitted in many places because, inter alia, it solves the issue of re-offending. Castration however offers no such promises, it may remove part of the sexual drive of sex offenders but that neither prevents their ability to commit sex crimes, nor alters the psychological state of mind that may have led them to their initial crime.Improve this
Legal systems should not impose physical punishments upon convicts
Our legal system works on the basis of non-physical punishments for crimes committed. We have done away with the barbaric practice of using physical pain or disfigurement as a punishment for other crimes in favour of a more enlightened system of reforming the offender in prison. What would happen if the suspect was later acquitted ? – the process could not be reversed. When the death penalty was applied, many people were found to be innocent subsequent to their execution – the same could happen here. Mandatory chemical castration interferes with a sex offender’s ‘fundamental right to procreate and the right to refuse medical treatment’ (Spalding, 1997).Improve this
The legal system should be concerned with justice for the victims, whether physical punishments or not. If the right of convicted sex offenders to reproduce is the price to be paid to protect the young potential victims of sex crimes, it is a price worth paying. Hynek Blasko, whose 9 year old son was raped and killed in 2009, described his disbelief that ‘no-one wants to touch the rights of the paedophiles, but what about the rights of a 9 year old boy with his life ahead of him?’ (Bilefsky, 2009). Larry Don McQuay, a convicted sex offender, has also supported castration, claiming ‘what is barbaric is what I have done to so many children; refusing to castrate me is barbaric to the children I will molest’ (McQuay, 1994). If physical punishment is the only means by which the legal system can protect both victims and sex offenders (from themselves), it would be a dereliction of their duty not to impose it.Improve this
Castration is not an effective means of preventing recidivism amongst sex offenders
The evidence suggests that sexual castration is not an effective treatment, for sex offenders are not always driven by hormonal urges. Ales Butala describes visiting the Czech Republic and coming across three cases in which ‘sex offenders had committed serious sex-related crimes , including serial rape, after being surgically castrated (Johnston, 2009)’. Furthermore, the American Civil Liberties Union believes that ‘determined sex offenders can, in all probability, reverse the effect with other drugs’ (Spalding, 1997). If the effects of castration are capable of being circumvented, there is no punitive or deterrent argument in the operation.Improve this
Castration, used appropriately on specific offenders and often in conjunction with other rehabilitative measures, can be an effective means of reducing the threat of sex offenders both to potential victims and themselves. Governer Celso Jaque of Mendoza, Argentina announced in March of 2010 that ‘by using medication that lowers the person’s sexual desires and with psychological desire, the person can be reintroduced into society without being a threat’ (CNN World, 2010). The evidence suggests a clear correlation between castration and a reduction in the number of repeat offences; ‘a Danish study of 900 castrated sex offenders in the 1960s suggested the rate dropped to 2.3% from 80%’ (Bilefsky, 2009).Improve this
Castration reinforces the myth that sex crimes are motivated by sexual desire, not power
The objective of a penal system is to rehabilitate; the castration of sex offenders is one step away from the amputation of the hands of convicted pickpockets. As the ACLU argue, ‘chemical castration does make sex offenders ready to face society’, as would be potentially possible with committed and prolonged psychotherapy (Spalding, 1997). Furthermore, the application of castration indiscriminately risks needlessly targeting rapists who are not sadists and paedophiles, and for whom castration will have no positive punitive effect upon (Gawande, 1997).Improve this
The evidence from studies showing a clear correlation between castration and reductions in repeat offenses suggests that ‘the common argument- that rape is all about power, not sex, and therefore castration won’t work- is wrong’ (Gawande, 1997). Tellingly, studies have shown that castrated sex offenders are often still capable of having sex, but the fact rates of re-offending stay low suggest their crimes are in fact about sexual desire, not power; ‘castration takes the impulse away from those with an aberrant sexual orientation, often to their relief’ (Gawande, 1997).Improve this
Besharow, D. J. (1992, July). Yes: Consider Chemical Treatment. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from Aba Journal: http://www.welfareacademy.org/pubs/legal/sexoffenders_92.pdf
Bilefsky, D. (2009, March 10). Europeans Debate Castration of Sex Offenders. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/world/europe/11castrate.html?pagewante...
CNN World. (2010, March 19). Argentina province OKs chemical castration for rapists. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from CNN World: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-03-19/world/argentina.castration_1_chemical...
Gawande, A. (1997, July 13). The Unkindest Cut. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2660/
Johnston, R. (2009, February 6). Czechs criticized for surgically castrating sex offenders. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from Radio Praha: http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/czechs-criticized-for-surgicall...
McQuay, L. D. (1994, May). The case for castration. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from Washington Monthly: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_n5_v26/ai_15261919/
Spalding, L. H. (1997, August). Chemical Castration: A Return to the Dark Ages. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from American Civil Liberties Union: http://www.aclufl.org/about/newsletters/1997/chem.cfm
Curate this debate
If you are an academic or highly knowledgeable about a particular debate could you give an hour or two a month to curate a debate?
Be a debatabase editor
Idebate needs editors from around the world to check, moderate and create content for debatabase and the site more generally. Editors are vital in making the site run smoothly and ensuring that debates are as informative as possible.