The word castration is enough to send fearful shivers down the spines of men. That was probably what Indonesian Social Affairs Minister Kofifah Indar Parawansa had in mind when she raised the idea of introducing chemical castration for sex offenders.
The move followed the arrest of a 39- year-old man on Oct 6 by Jakarta police for allegedly raping and murdering a nine-year-old student. The body was found in a corrugated paper box that had been thrown into a garbage dump.
Last year, five cleaners at international schools were given jail terms ranging from seven to eight years for sexually assaulting kindergarten students in Jakarta.
Chemical castration in such cases has since gained support from President Joko Widodo, high-profile Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and other leading personalities in Indonesia.
The president is considering harsher penalties like chemical castration as well, especially for men convicted of child sex offences, says Attorney-General M. Prasetyo.
"The use of the medical procedure is a potential breakthrough that we hope could lead to a positive change for child protection," Mr Prasetyo was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Post.
Cases of sexual assault against children have recently dominated local media headlines.
In surgical castration, a man's testicles are actually removed to eliminate his sex drive. Chemical castration involves the administration of drugs that reduce testosterone levels, but the process is reversible.
Even though officials want harsher sanctions against sex offences, they also do not want to call human rights into question, so the push has been to adopt chemical rather than surgical castration.
Sweden, Denmark, Canada and eight American states perform chemical castration on sex offenders. Results from Scandinavia show that the procedure can reduce repeat offences to five per cent from more than 40 per cent.
Sexologist Boyke Dian Nugraha opposes the proposal. "Their souls are ill. Castration would not heal the ill soul," he said.
Rehabilitation programmes for offenders and sex education for children would be better alternatives, he said.
However, criminologist Adrianus Meliala approves of the possible move, and even suggested that the government go further. He prefers surgical castration to chemical castration, which he said would be costly for the government.
"The government should just go ahead with a total kebiri or castration, because offenders have created massive fear among the victims," Dr Adrianus told The Straits Times.
This article was first published on October 23, 2015.
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