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Turkey Considering Chemical Castration of Sex Offenders

Measure Would Violate Human Rights, Fail to Address Causes of Abuse

A guard stands at his post in front of the Turkish parliament in Ankara,Turkey, July 19, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

Turkey has opened the door – again – to the idea of mandating chemical castration for those convicted of sex offences against children, a wrongheaded and abusive approach to dealing with child sexual abuse.

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül told reporters on February 21 the government is considering this in the wake of public outcry over a string of sexual assaults of children. They also vowed to introduce heavier penalties for child sex abuse.

The Turkish government has a duty to protect children from violence and sexual assault, which it is failing to meet. According to a 2017 report by “We will stop the murder of women”, a women’s rights platform, cases of reported child abuse in Turkey have been on the rise. Chemical castration will not provide a solution and it violates international human rights law.

Chemical castration involves the administration of hormones to decrease men’s testosterone levels to inhibit their libido. Carrying it out without consent – as the justice minister’s proposal seems to suggest – is doubly problematic.

A Turkish network of rights groups issued a petition against it and women’s rights groups have criticized the proposal saying it fails to address the roots of sexual violence in Turkey, including the lack of gender equality and sex education in schools. Having ratified the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty, Turkey has obligations to take measures to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, and hold perpetrators to account.

It is not the first time that Turkey has moved to adopt chemical castration for sex offenders. In July 2016, the Turkish government issued such a regulation. However, the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, struck it down on the grounds that its “definition and limitation” were “vague.” The 2016 regulation did not require the consent of the convicted offender to administer chemical castration, only a court order.

Castration, chemical or otherwise, is a cruel and degrading form of corporal punishment. The Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, all ratified by Turkey, prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in absolute terms.

If the Turkish government is serious about tackling sexual violence and abuse of children it should focus on addressing the underlying causes of the abuse, and making sure all perpetrators of violence are held to account but not tortured.

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