The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission; Mr. Anthony OJUKWU for speaking against the decision of the Kaduna State administration to enforce chemical castration of rapists just as the Rights group said the new law by the Kaduna State legislative house should be made a national law while adding that it was unimaginable that a human rights Commission set up to defend rape victims is canvassing soft landing for vicious rapists and sex offenders.
In a detailed media Statement by the National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director; Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said this tendency to speak for sex offenders by the National Human Rights commission in a season of epidemic of sexual violations of kids by adult predatory brutes should be condemned in its totality.
The statement says thus: “For the avoidance of doubts and to clear any ambiguity, HURIWA backs the call and the law bringing into being the chemical castration of rapists. We hereby restate our earlier position sent to the National Assembly thus; “In Nigeria rape is unlawful carnal knowledge of a female by a male. It could be non-consensual sex with an adult female or carnal knowledge of a female child or minor.
“On the other hand, Chemical castration is the use of anaphrodisiac drugs to lower sexual drive. It does not involve removing a person’s testicles like surgical castration but only the use of drugs delivered by injection to render the testicles irrelevant. According to the American Journal of Criminal Law, 1990, chemical castration “reduces the production and effects of testosterone, thus diminishing the compulsive sexual fantasy. Formerly inconsistent and commanding urges can be voluntarily controlled.”
Jurisdictions with Chemical Castration Law
Chemical castration is legal in 8 States of USA although not all States make the treatment mandatory. In 1996 California became the first US State to legalize it by requiring mandatory treatment for repeat sex offenders but discretionary injections for first time offenders.
Florida and Texas followed suit but in the latter State, the offender must be at least 21 years of age. In Iowa, chemical castration is allowed in all cases of serious sex offences. In Louisiana, judges can sentence convicted rapists to chemical castration. The State of Alabama law passed in 2019 requires, as a condition of parole, that convicted sex offender of a child under the age of 13 undergo the treatment which will continue until a court rules otherwise.
In Canada, the courts cannot order offenders to undergo chemical castration – they can only impose psychiatric treatment, which can include the use of anti-libido medication. In 2006, the Canadian Court of Appeal ruled it constitutional for the National Parole Board to require that recidivist sex offenders, if found to be long-term offenders, be chemically castrated as conditions of release.
Most jurisdictions in the European Union do not impose chemical castration as a compulsory punishment but as a discretionary condition for parole or reduced sentence. In Italy is optional because making it compulsory would likely offend against the constitution where it is determined that punishment cannot consists of treatment which go against “sense of humanity”.
In Finland it is only allowed if it will alleviate the subject’s mental anguish over deviant sexual drives while Denmark, Germany and Norway permit it if it can be demonstrated that the subject may be compelled to commit sexual crimes due to uncontrollable sexual urges.
Sweden allows the procedure in the event that the subject poses a threat to society and the practice is completely voluntary and requires that the subject be fully informed of all possible side effects. In Russia a court may order the prescription of chemical castration for an offender who harms a victim of less than 14 years. The only EU State where sexual offenders can be compulsorily sentenced to chemical castration is Poland.
In 2011, South Korea became the first Asian country to legalize chemical castration and it applies to perpetrators of sexual crimes against minors of less than 16 years. Indonesia followed suit in 2016 after the public outcry that greeted the rape and murder of 14 year old school girl, Yuyun, by a gang of 12 men and boys. The Indonesian law grants the court power to order chemical castration of repeat sex offenders and sexual abusers of family members besides the sentence of imprisonment.
The application of chemical castration in South America is similar to that of Europe where it is only voluntary condition for reduced prison term although it is not as popular on the continent as Europe.
Rationale for and Merits of the Procedure
One obvious and major rationale for the treatment is its ability to lower sexual urge and reduce sex offences. During a debate on the bill for chemical castration in Alabama, the sponsor, Representative Steve Hurst, made this profound statement if it “will help one or two children, and decrease that urge to the point that person does not harm that child, it’s worth it”.
The Indonesian President, Mr Jokoko Widodo, was more forceful while defending the law: “Our constitution respects human rights, but when it comes to sexual crimes there is no compromise. In my opinion, chemical castration, if we enforce it consistently, will reduce sex crimes and wipe them out over time.”
The proponents of the procedure posit in this regard that the public interest and safety runs higher and takes precedence over individual and criminal’s rights. This utilitarian approach appears to be the best rationale for the procedure. Closely related is the believe that the concept of chemical castration may have the positive psychological effect of calming the nerves of people in the society about the horror of the existence of sexual predators and reoccurrence of sexual predation.
Usually recidivism rate of sexual offenders without treatment and cost of imprisonment are so high that it is considered the most appropriate punishment for the crime and alternative to imprisonment.
The procedure is reversible unlike surgical castration, thus convicts can return to living normal lives after they have been certified to have overcome sexual predatory disposition over a period of time.
Criticism and Demerits
Although there is a uniform concern on the alarming rate of sex-related crime and its attendant socio-cultural implications, Chemical castration as a solution to the ugly state of affairs, there is no consensus on the solution. Chemical castration has more opponents than proponents due to some attendant or inherent obvious demerits.
One criticism of chemical castration is its potential side effects which range from phlebitis, gynecomastia, feminization, cardiovascular disease, depression, osteoporosis to Infertility, amnesia, hypertension, among others. According to Michael Seto, Director of Forensic Rehabilitation Research at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre:
“One problem is that there can be serious side effects so some pedophile offenders are unwilling to try them, or try them and then quit or have to quit because of the side effects”.
A classic case was popular United Kingdom computer scientist, Alan Turing, who, on a charge of gross indecency in 1952, accepted chemical castration as a condition for his probationary sentence but later suffered gynecomastia, bloating of the physique and eventually committed suicide.
Worse still is the fact that the side effects are said not be reversible. This is one reason for the opposition of the procedure by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. In 1984 US State of Michigan’s Court of Appeals held as unconstitutional the requirement of chemical castration as a condition for bail on the basis that the drug used in the procedure had not gained acceptance of being safe and reliable.
Again the treatment is not effective in all sex offenders because not all sex offenders have pedophilic interest. Some offenders commit rape because of opportunity while others are attributable to antisocial personality disorder. According to Dr Renee Sorrentino a forensic Psychiatrist in Massachusetts and Medical Director at the Institute for Sexual Wellness, it is only useful for some offenders. Besides, there are testosterone boosting drugs that can counter the effect of castration. In 2002, a convicted pedophile in New Zealand, Robert Jason Dittmer, attacked another victim while he was on the drug.
Furthermore, it is recommended that the treatment to be accompanied by some other forms of therapy and regular care which is not readily available. According to the World Federation Societies of Biological Psychiatry guideline, combined psychotherapy and pharmacological therapy is associated with better efficacy compared with either treatment as monotherapy.
This again reveals some other detriment of the treatment, cost of managing the procedure. In Korea, quarterly treatment of one person cost about USD4, 650 per year while some persons require monthly treatment.
Moreover the procedure is situated between punishment and treatment since it lacks informed consent by the recipient and as such remains an ethical issue among medical practitioners, some of whom consider it out rightly unethical and denounce it. For instance, the Indonesian Doctors Association is opposed to the law of chemical castration. According to Dr Daeng Muhammad Faqih, Chairman of the Association:
“From scientific view point, this is less effective because the intervention that is happening is hormonal, physically. Whereas according to medical studies, the cause of sexual crimes is not hormonal issue, but a mental disorder. Doctors cannot execute the punishment.
Firstly, according to our code of ethics, doctors must help people or treat them. The chemical castration is meant to ‘punish and hurt’, so to speak. This conflicts with our code of ethics. Secondly, it conflicts with the laws for practicing medicine and its regulation that says doctors must only take that action in context of medical services. Chemical castration is not medical service. Thirdly, (there) is the principle of patient autonomy. The patient must agree to what is being done to them.”
This concern is equally expressed by lawyers in jurisdictions where chemical castration is legal. Canan Arin, a lawyer in Turkey expressed the view in these words: “Chemical castration is a punishment that will merely assuage the victim’s immediate wish for revenge. It will not address the underlying problems. Sexual abuse not only committed because of a man’s genitals. Sexuality and male-female relationships in Turkey are not healthy.”
Thus, right activists argue that the procedure is most cruel, barbaric and a violation of rights to dignity of the human person and medical choice. However a very a very profound statement, echoing the minds of many, was made by Larry Don McQuay, a convicted sex offender in Washington Monthly (1994) who said:
“What is barbaric is what I have done to so many children I will molest. [Chemical Castration] … is considered ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ But no punishment is crueler or more unusual than the pain I have caused my victims. Voluntary castration is not unconstitutional…”
Summary and Conclusion
It is observed that there is increasing awareness of the need for stiffer penalties for sex offenders especially relating to minors in the light of the prevalence and damaging consequences of the offence. Chemical castration is gaining ground as an alternative to imprisonment especially in developed economies. However there is the problem of medical ethics. Also health safety of the procedure remains a serious concern. Violation of human rights is another problem.
There is obviously a craving for a sustainable solution to the menace of rape in Nigeria but chemical castration has a lot of obstacles to its acceptability and legality. Besides the general problem of medical ethics, the procedure is too sophisticated for a less developed economy’s medical facility like ours. There is also a huge cultural barrier of Africanizing an “unnatural” procedure. At best, voluntary chemical castration can be considered in Nigeria in a few years after great strides in the economy, medical practice and health care system.”
HURIWA recalled that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had expressed concern over the recent amendment of the Kaduna State Penal Code Law No.5 of 2017, providing stiffer penalties to the offence of rape, including castration of offenders.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq. who stated this in Abuja while reacting to new Kaduna State House of Assembly legislation on rape and other Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) observed that the said amendments violates Section 2(ix) of Anti-Torture Act of 2017, which outlaws “mutilation such as amputation of essential parts of the body such as the genitalia, ears or tongue and any other part of the body”.
In a press statement signed by the Assistant Director Public Affairs, NHRC, Fatimah Agwai Mohammed, Ojukwu stressed that castration in this regard negates human rights standards and principles and therefore should be jettisoned.
While calling on the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to withhold his assent to the amended Penal Code Law until the State Assembly expunges the aspect of the law that stipulates castration of culprits the human rights boss emphasized:
“This amendment violates principal corpus of international human rights norms, including article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. “Which means there can be no justification for torture, no exceptional circumstance whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as justification for torture”, he said.
Ojukwu therefore restated that torture cannot be justified even with criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law such as the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State, otherwise it will be tantamount to legislating torture.”
HURIWA condemns the haste by the National Human Rights commission to speak for criminal rapists just as we strongly recommend the implementation of chemical castration of rapists as a punishment to be created by law and once this is done by way of a passage into law, It can not be erroneously presumed as torture just the same way that capital punishment is permitted for capital offences.