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Chemical castration comes into force in Alabama, a win against sex offenders?

June 17, 2019 at 01:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Etsey Atisu

Etsey Atisu | Staff Writer

June 17, 2019 at 01:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Statistics available on rainn.org, an anti-sexual violence organization, paints a picture of the grim nature of cases of rape around the United States of America. On the average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

Of that number, 54% are believed to be between the ages of 18-34 while females between the ages of 16-19 are said to be 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

In South Africa, the country believed to be home to the highest rape statistics in the world, although contentious since no national studies have been done to quantify the number of unreported rape cases, it is estimated that over 40% South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 4 rapes are reported.

Recent reports on Face2Face Africa also highlight some of the extremes of rape activities, as was in the case of one 12-year old Somalian Aisha Ilyas Adan who was gang raped, tortured and murdered.

12-year-old Aisha Ilyas Adan was raped and murdered in Galkayo

Her killing, which attracted global attention after her body was found dumped near her house after she had briefly gone missing on February 24, 2019, revived conversations on more effective punishments for perpetrators of such crimes.

Now, there seems to be some hope in sight, although not universally. In Alabama, lawmakers have approved a bill that makes it legal for certain sex offenders to undergo chemical castration before they are released on parole.

Chemical castration involves using medication to lower a person’s hormone levels and limit their libido. Unlike surgical castration, this process is reversible and does not affect a patient’s fertility. Under Alabama’s new law, inmates would begin taking the medication a month before being paroled and continue receiving treatment once they’re free. Stopping treatment without the state’s permission would be a felony.

Besides, the State of Alabama does not also allow parole for sex crimes involving children 6 and under.

As part of reasons for the law, sex offenders with tendencies for recidivism are expected to be controlled through this chemical process.

Governor Kay Ivey/Washington Post

But some legal groups do not entirely agree with the decision. Some of them have begun raising questions on the decision after Governor Kay Ivey’s office made the announcement earlier this month.

Advocates for chemical castration believe it’s an effective way of protecting children from known sexual predators. “If they’re going to mark these children for life, they need to be marked for life,” said Rep. Steve Hurst, who introduced the bill in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Opponents of the bill say the procedure is barbaric and may violate the constitution’s clause regarding cruel and unusual punishment. There are also concerns about the precedent set by a law that establishes government-mandated medical treatment, especially given the potential side effects. Others argue that changing someone’s hormones does not address the true causes behind pedophilia.

At least seven states already have laws authorizing chemical castration in some form. But its effectiveness can vary.

The hormonal treatment can be useful for a subgroup of offenders whose crimes are driven by sexual attraction to children and want to reduce those urges, said Dr. Frederick Berlin, who treats patients with sexual disorders at Johns Hopkins Hospital and at an independent clinic. However, he has concerns about a blanket criminal justice approach without evaluating the appropriateness in each case.

This new Alabama law will however take effect from September this year.

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