Chemical castration is the administration of medication designed to reduce libido and sexual activity, usually in the hope of preventing rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders from repeating their crimes. Unlike surgical castration, where the testes are removed through an incision in the scrotum, chemical castration does not actually castrate the person, nor is it a form of sterilization. For this reason the term "chemical castration" has been called a misnomer..
Chemical castration is generally considered reversible when treatment is discontinued; in the case of Depo Provera, "no permanent physical change is wrought in the body." Castration has, from time to time, been used as an instrument of public and/or judicial policy despite concerns over human rights and possible side effects.
Chemical castration involves the administration of anti-androgen drugs, such as cyproterone or the birth-control drug Depo-Provera, which is given as an injection every three months, making compliance easier to track.
When used by men, these drugs can reduce sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies, and capacity for sexual arousal. Life-threatening side effects are rare, but some users show increases in body fat and reduced bone density, which increase long-term risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. They may also experience other "feminizing" effects such as gynecomastia, reduced body hair, and loss of muscle mass.
Chemical castration is presented as a humane alternative to life-long imprisonment or surgical castration, since the effects are claimed to be temporary and are intended to stop sex offenders from re-offending. However, the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the coerced administration of any drug, including antiandrogen drugs for sex offenders, arguing that forced chemical castration is a "cruel and unusual punishment", and thereby constitutionally prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. They also stated that it interfered with the right to procreate, and could expose users to various health problems. It has also been argued that, based on the Fourteenth Amendment, the procedure fails to guarantee due process of law - although the laws mandating the treatment do so without respect to gender, the actual effect of the procedure falls disproportionately upon males. In the case of voluntary statutes, the ability to give informed consent is also an issue: in 1984, the U.S. state of Michigan's court of appeals held that mandating chemical castration as a condition of probation was unlawful, on the grounds that the drug medroxyprogesterone acetate had not yet gained acceptance as being safe and reliable, and also due to the difficulty of obtaining informed consent under these circumstances.
In 1981, in an experiment by P. Gagne, 48 males with long standing histories of sexually deviant behaviour were given medroxyprogesterone acetate for as long as 12 months. Forty of those subjects were recorded as to have diminished desires for deviant sexual behaviour, less frequent sexual fantasies, and greater control over sexual urges. The research recorded a continuation of this more positive behaviour after the administration of the drug had ended, with no evidence of adverse side effects, and recommended medroxyprogesterone acetate along with counselling as a successful method of treatment for serial sex offenders.
History and use by country
The first use of chemical castration occurred in 1944, when diethylstilbestrol was used with the purpose of lowering male testosterone..
In 1966, John Money prescribed medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA, the base ingredient now used in Depo Provera) as a treatment for a patient dealing with pedophilic urges, becoming the first American to employ chemical castration. Since then, the drug has become a mainstay of chemical castration in America. Despite its long history and established use, the drug has never been approved by the FDA for use as a treatment for sexual offenders.
California was the first U.S. state to specify the use of chemical castration as a punishment for child molestation, following the passage of a modification to Section 645 of the California penal code in 1996. This law stipulates that anyone convicted of child molestation with a minor under 13 years of age may be treated with Depo Provera if they are on parole and if it is their second offense, and offenders may not reject the treatment.
The passage of this law led to similar laws in other states, such as Florida's Statute Section 794.0235 which was passed into law in 1997. As in California, treatment is mandatory after a second offense.
Besides California and Florida, at least seven other states, including Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, have experimented with chemical castration . In Iowa, as in California and Florida, offenders may be sentenced to chemical castration in all cases involving serious sex offenses. On June 25, 2008 Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 144, allowing Louisiana judges to sentence convicted rapists to chemical castration.
In the United Kingdom, computer scientist Alan Turing, famous for his contributions to mathematics and computer science, was a homosexual who chose to undergo chemical castration in order to avoid imprisonment in 1952. At the time, homosexuality was still illegal and considered to be a mental illness that could be treated with chemical castration. Turing experienced side effects such as breast enlargement and bloating of the physique. Two years later, he committed suicide. In 2009, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issued a public apology for the British government's "appalling" actions after an online petition seeking the same gained 30,000 signatures and international recognition.
On September 25, 2009, Poland passed legislation for forcible chemical castration of child molesters. This law came into effect on June 9, 2010, so in Poland "anyone guilty of raping a child under the age of 15 can now be forced to submit to chemical and psychological therapy to reduce sex drive at the end of a prison term".
On April 30, 2010, a man in the United Kingdom found guilty of attempting to murder a 60-year-old woman in order to abduct and rape her two granddaughters, agreed to undergo chemical castration as part of the terms of his sentence.
In May 2009, two brothers from Haifa, convicted child molesters, agreed to undergo chemical castration to avoid committing further crimes.
- "Can Castration Be a Solution for Sex Offenders? Man Who Mutilated Himself in Jail Thinks So, but Debate on Its Effectiveness Continues in Va., Elsewhere" by Candace Rondeaux for the Washington Post, July 5, 2006
- "Chemical castration - breaking the cycle of paraphiliac recidivism" Social Justice, Spring, 1999 by Christopher Meisenkothen.
- "Florida'S 1997 Chemical Castration Law: A Return to the Dark Ages"
- "Castration of Sex Offenders: Prisoners’ Rights Versus Public Safety" Charles L. Scott, MD, and Trent Holmberg, MD
- Can drugs help sex offenders? by Clare Murphy for the BBC, 13 June 2007
- Chemical Castration: A Return to the Dark Ages Florida, August 1997, PDF
- American Psychiatric Association
- "XII. SEX OFFENDERS: Children and minors". California State Senate. http://www.sen.ca.gov/ftp/SEN/COMMITTEE/STANDING/PUBLICSAFETY/bills/_6bill12.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-23. The web page notes the Chemical Castration clause as a repeal and an addition to Section 645.
- "California child molesters could face chemical castration". CNN. 1996-08-29. Archived from the original on 2006-10-20. http://web.archive.org/web/20061020071518/http://www.cnn.com/US/9608/29/castration/. Retrieved 2006-11-23.
- California code
- "Chemical castration for paedophiles approved" in California 21 September 1996
- LARRY HELM SPALDING (1998). "FLORIDA'S 1997 CHEMICAL CASTRATION LAW: A RETURN TO THE DARK AGES". Florida State University Law Review.
- Iowa Code 2007 Quick Retrieval
- The 2007 Florida Statutes: 794.0235 Administration of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) to persons convicted of sexual battery.
- The Turing enigma: Campaigners demand pardon for mathematics genius by Jonathan Brown for the Independent, 18 August 2009
- Thousands call for Turing apology, BBC, 31 August 2009
- Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling” - PM
- Poland okays forcible castration for pedophiles
- Poland approves chemical castration for paedophiles
- 'Menace' jailed over child rape and abduction attempt
- Article from the Israeli paper Haaretz
- "Argentina province OKs chemical castration for rapists". CNN. March 20, 2010. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/03/19/argentina.castration/index.html.