This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
Over my dead body. That’s basically what Muhammad Aris, 20, a child rapist from Mojokerto, East Java said when he was sentenced to chemical castration for raping nine children.
He was convicted in 2015 and initially sentenced to 12 years in prison and a Rp100 million (US$7,024 ) fine, but in August 2016 the Mojokerto District Court judge decided that he would be the first Indonesian criminal to be chemically castrated after receiving approval from the Surabaya High Court.
“I’d rather die than undergo chemical castration, which lasts a lifetime,” Aris told local media on Monday. “If they ask me to sign the document, I’ll refuse. I’d rather die.” He said he would prefer an increase in prison time or even the death penalty.
But preparations for his impending chemical castration is already underway. The Mojokerto courts are now searching for a hospital that can execute the punishment.
“We are still looking for a hospital that can carry out the chemical castration. Mojokerto hospitals have never done such a thing,” Nugraha Wisnu, Mojokerto District judge, told local media.
Chemical castration is legal in Europe and the United States where it has been utilised as punishment for sex offenders for decades. The process involves injecting an anti-androgen substance, which inhibits the production of testosterone, essentially reducing sex drive and increasing a person's ability to control sexual urges.
Chemical castration was recognised as a viable punishment in Indonesia after an amendment on the country’s child protection laws in 2016. At the time, many Indonesians were calling for chemical castration after a four-year-old was raped in Sorong, West Papua.
However, experts and advocacy groups have criticised this new punishment. The Indonesian Women’s Commission rejected it, saying in a statement that it only “appeals to the public’s emotional urges without addressing the flaws of the Indonesian legal system.”
Forensic psychologist Reza Indragiri Amriel said chemical castration is not an effective method of punishment because forcing an individual to undergo chemical castration might make them even more dangerous.
“Because the punishment is enforced against the individual’s will, it’s possible the perpetrator will become a predator with sexual abnormalities, for instance, a Mysoped, or a sadistic pedophile,” Amriel told local media.
Head of the Indonesian Legal Assistance Foundation, Asfinawati, who goes by only one name, believes that chemical castration won’t stop sexual predators. She worries that such punishment will lead to resentment and aggressive behaviour among perpetrators. Instead, she advocates for rehabilitation and a prison sentence much longer than 12 years.
“Chemical castration doesn’t solve the problem,” Asfinawati told local media. “Cruel punishment does not necessarily deter sex offenders from committing crimes.”
The Indonesian Doctor’s Association also disagreed with the Mojokerto judge’s decision, saying “The Indonesian medical code of ethics prohibits us from carrying out such a procedure. It’s too risky.”
The Witness and Victim Protection Foundation and the Indonesian Child Protection Commission reported a significant uptick in the number of cases of sexual violence against children since 2017, which saw 81 reported cases. In 2018, the number rose to 206. Between January and August of this year, a total of 236 cases have been reported, but police are only capable of addressing half of them. This data only includes reported cases and the actual numbers are likely much higher.