Chemical Castration Draws Divide Between Physicians and Policymakers
Earlier this month, Indonesia announced controversial legislation allowing for the chemical castration of convicted pedophiles. Pedophilia constitutes a growing problem in Indonesia. In 2015 the country’s National Commission for Child Protection documented a record high 2,898 counts of child abuse, 59.3% of which were found to involve sexual abuse . Chemical castration involves injecting testosterone-reducing drugs with the aim of diminishing a person’s sex drive and thus decreasing the likelihood of convicts engaging in, or even pursuing, any sexual activities. Many ethical questions have been raised regarding the potential harm pedophiles may be subjected to as a result of the drugs’ side effects, including “an increase in body fat and reduced bone density… depression, fatigue, blood clots, and diabetes” . Its efficacy has also been called into question as the hormone therapy can be reversed if it is not monitored closely enough or if additional counteracting drugs are taken.
Despite the consensus in Indonesia that this particular crime is increasing in occurrence, the reaction to the new law has been far from universally favorable. Among those in opposition to chemical castration is the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDA), which claims that the involvement of physicians in this practice would be an infringement on the Hippocratic Oath. The IDA also points to a violation of human rights and the temporary nature of chemical castration as additional reasons to avoid the practice .
Several states in the US currently employ chemical castration as a means of punishing sex offenders. This penalty is often mandatory, but it is frequently faced with resistance. The American Civil Liberties Union believes that chemical castration is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, claiming that it “interferes with the right to procreate and could expose users to various health problems” . Other forms of action taken against convicted pedophiles and sex offenders in the US include prison terms ranging from two years to life imprisonment. In some states, criminals have the option to substitute their prison sentence for surgical castration. This elicits further ethical questions, but the voluntary nature of such a decision makes it less controversial in comparison with chemical castration.
Papang Hidayat, speaking on behalf of Amnesty International, described Indonesia’s implementation of chemical castration as a “violation of the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law” . The organization called for Indonesia to revoke its new legislation primarily due to the threat it poses to human rights, but also in fear of the danger of irreversibly harming a falsely sentenced individual.
 Fedina S. Sundaryani, “Commission Records High Child-Abuse Rate,” The Jakarta Post, December 23, 2015, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/23/commission-records-high-child-abuse-rate.html.
 “Chemical Castration: Is It Ethical?,” NeuLaw: Center for Science and Law, October 24, 2012, http://www.neulaw.org/blog/1034-class-blog/4034-chemical-castration-is-it-ethical.
 “Indonesia Castration Law ‘Will Wipe Out Paedophilia’,” BBC.com, October 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37694475.
 Paige Miles Feldmann, “Very Unusual Punishment,” Campbell Law Observer, May 8, 2016, http://campbelllawobserver.com/very-unusual-punishment/
 “Indonesia: Halt Chemical Castration,” Amnesty International, October 13, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/10/indonesia-halt-chemical-castration/.