A law that makes chemical castration compulsory for those who abuse children under the age of 15 passed by the Moldovan Parliament in early March is just the latest step taken in a region where the debate on pedophilia and society's answer to it is taking shape every day.
The legislators in Kishinev argued they wanted to avoid turning their country into a haven for those looking for sex tourism, after a dramatic rise in pedophilia cases over the last years. But the Council of Europe criticised the move.
"The Council of Europe Anti-torture Committee (CPT) has stated in its reports that, as a matter of principle, anti-androgen treatment should only be given on a voluntary basis and following a thorough psychiatric and medical assessment. As with any medical treatment, the prior free and informed written consent of the person concerned should be obtained. These individuals should be able to withdraw consent at any time. No person should be put under pressure to accept anti-androgen treatment," the council said in a statement released to SES Türkiye.
A similar debate flared in Romania last summer after a tragic case in the southwestern town of Jimbolia, where a 10-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and then killed by a neighbour. In November, the Romanian Senate approved a bill that calls for chemical castration of a pedophile sentenced for a crime committed under aggravated circumstances. Once released from prison, the pedophile would be monitored via a GPS device for a period of time determined by the judge. The bill must still be approved by the lower chamber.
"Pedophilia can turn into a phenomenon. The current punishments in force are not enough anymore; they no longer produce the expected results; thus the need for alternative punishments," Stefan Pirpiliu, the Democrat-Liberal lawmaker who submitted the draft law on chemical castration to parliament, told SES Türkiye. "At the same time, such punishments will, in time, temper the excess of using children in human trafficking," he said.
As for criticism about encroaching on human rights, Pirpiliu thinks things will change in time. "They have to be aware that disappearance of internal borders in Europe leads to new social phenomena. In time, the international forums will think differently, while such laws will improve and end up in a common European law," he said.
In Turkey, a draft was submitted in February 2011 by a group of deputies from the ruling AK Party. It called for the chemical castration of pedophiles and rapists by prescribing forcible administration of testosterone-reducing medication to reduce sexual activity. According to the draft law, a first rape offence will be punished with a prison term. If the offence is repeated, the chemical castration process will be initiated.
But this proposal, having caused some controversy about whether it is a violation of human rights, did not garner much support and has since been dropped from the agenda. Lawyer and women's rights activist Hulya Gulbahar does not agree with any punishment against the integrity of the human body. "This is not a healthy decision," she said to SES Türkiye. "The solution of this problem is in the removal of all violence-producing mechanisms in the social structure."
According to Gulbahar, the pedophile offenders should be treated medically and psychologically when required, while the other offenders should be imprisoned. "As long as the welfare state is weakening, there will be much less desire to finance the treatment of such illnesses through public funds, which push authorities to use such methods," she explained.
Still, according to Professor Ersi Abaci Kalfoglu, Turkey's first professor of forensic genetics and founder of the country's first rape crisis centre, it is a medical measure consisting of hormone treatments that can be stopped at any time. "In light of concrete evidence, it is generally accepted that the rape offences are crimes that are usually recurring for the second time," Kalfoglu told SES Türkiye, acknowledging that such chemical measures can remove the desire to commit such sex crimes again.
"However, it is of utmost importance that relevant authorities take get the consent of the offender, otherwise it would be harmful to human rights," she said.
In Serbia, a rape case involving two minors in February prompted politicians to seek amendments to the Criminal Law and the introduction of chemical castration. "We object to dialogue on voluntary castration which is the practice in some European countries because anyone who rapes should not have the right to be asked about castration," Branislav Lecic, president of the Christian Democratic Party, told SES Türkiye.
In the meantime, the Serbian Ministry of Justice is working on other amendments which will allow the registration of pedophiles and rapists. This evidence will help the police and social welfare centres to supervise their behaviour after serving a prison sentence. "Experts will monitor the potential danger of the repetition of this crime and take measures to prevent it," Slobodan Homen, state secretary with the Ministry of Justice, explained to SES Türkiye.
A similar measure is envisaged in Macedonia. The names of 68 Macedonian citizens convicted of sexual assault on children will be published on the internet. In January, parliament adopted the Law for a special registry of pedophiles, giving the authorities three months to prepare the list. The registry will contain photos and all personal data of the convicted pedophiles. The government expects that this list will give a strong boost to the fight against pedophilia in the country.
Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul, Biljana Pekusic in Belgrade and Biljana Lajmanovska in Skopje contributed to this report.
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