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The Indonesian Medical Association has announced that its membership won’t participate in the government’s plan to chemically castrate convicted child sex offenders due to concerns that the proposed punishment “violates the country’s medical ethics.”

Official logo of Ikatan Dokter Indonesia/Indonesian Medical Association (IDI).  © Ikatan Dokter Indonesia (IDI)

Chemical castration is the use of hormones to lower men’s testosterone levels with the goal of inhibiting their sex drive.

But the professional body expressed doubt that the procedure could guarantee a reduction in sexual desire. Dr. Priyo Sidipratomo, chairman of Indonesia’s Honorary Council of Medical Ethics, warned last week that any doctors who assisted with chemical castration of child sex offenders risked expulsion from professional medical associations.

Following the April rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in western Indonesia’s Bengkulu province, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued a presidential decree imposing tougher penalties on repeat child sex offenders, including chemical castration. The decree, issued on May 26, also allows courts to impose harsher sentences on educators who are sex offenders and people convicted of sexually abusing a family member.

Jokowi publicly justified the decree, an amendment to the 2014 Child Protection Law, as necessary “to overcome the crisis caused by sexual violence against children.” The Indonesian parliament has until May 2017 to legally challenge the decree, but its public popularity makes it likely that lawmakers will pass it early next year.

Indonesian doctors are justified in their opposition to chemical castration as a form of judicial punishment. Human Rights Watch considers castration, chemical or otherwise, as a cruel and degrading form of corporal punishment. Both the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both ratified by Indonesia, prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Indonesian government has an obligation to protect children from sexual predators, but those efforts shouldn’t involve abusive measures that violate international human rights law. The Indonesian parliament should be sure to take human rights considerations into account whenever it debates passage of the decree.

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