Child Sex Offenders in Indonesia Face Chemical Castration Under New Guidelines

Supporters say the punishment will act as a deterrent. But rights groups and some medical professionals in the country have opposed it.
January 4, 2021, 11:59am
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Indonesia can chemically castrate child sex offenders under new guidelines quietly ratified by President Joko Widodo last month, renewing a fierce debate over the controversial practice.

The punishment, which is legal in parts of Europe, the United States, and is under consideration in Pakistan, uses injections to lower testosterone levels and diminish sexual urges. Supporters say it helps prevent sex offenders from repeating their crimes. But critics say it is inhumane.

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Indonesia amended its laws in 2016 to allow for the practice amid outcry over a child rape case. In 2019, a local court in East Java sentenced a man convicted of raping several children to chemical castration, the first such case.

But authorities could not find a hospital equipped to carry out the procedure. Doctors also refused to take part citing ethical reasons and a lack of evidence that the punishment was a meaningful solution to the problem of sexual abuse against children. 

The new guidelines, signed quietly by Jokowi on Dec. 7,  now give experts the power to assess whether child sex offenders sentenced to jail time deserve the additional punishment or not. 

An official from the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection in Indonesia told VICE World News that the punishment will have a “deterrent effect,” and that the original law required guidelines to fill a legal vacuum that has now existed for four years. 

But criticism was swift.

“Sexual violence against children is a terrible crime. But punishing offenders with chemical castration is merely adding one cruelty to another. Two wrongs do not make a right,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement, adding that forced chemical castration violates international human rights law and there is little evidence it works as a deterrent.

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Usman said that since 2016, when the law was first amended, cases of sexual abuse against minors have increased tenfold, pointing to data from the Witnesses and Victims Protection Agency in Indonesia. 

The country’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform also rebuked the law, arguing that chemical castration could be forced on someone who is wrongfully convicted. 

The process is not always permanent, however, and can be reversed.

But Retno Listyarti, the Chief Commissioner of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, believes the public should see the regulation as a bigger picture effort in the fight against abuse of minors.

Listyarti told VICE World News that other punishments laid out in the rules include the usage of monitoring bracelets and tracking devices for offenders.

“We must distinguish the many factors behind why someone commits a sex crime against children. Is it because of hormonal issues or psychological problems? When we find out that the underlying cause is hormonal, I think chemical castration is appropriate,” she said, citing its legality in some European countries.