The Indonesian Government is currently drafting a bill to enforce the chemical castration of convicted pedophiles. A series of high profile crimes around the archipelago have made sexual abuse a much-discussed topic, and President Joko Widodo says he's prepared to resort to desperate measures. If the bill is passed into law Indonesia will join a small international community that enforces this process, including Estonia, Russia, several US states and South Korea — the first Asian country to introduce chemical castration in 2011.
While the plan has been met with international outrage from human rights activists, it's been surprisingly well received within Indonesia. To find out why, and try to gauge the local level of support, we asked people around Jakarta for their thoughts on mandatory castration of convicted sex offenders.
VICE: Hi Ivan, do you think convicted sex offenders should be chemically castrated?
Ivan: Yes, I think they deserve it. Just imagine if one of your kids were molested. The criminals deserve to be castrated. The devil has gotten into them, right? Also it'll mean that we can say our laws are tough.
But isn't it a bit inhumane?
I don't think it's inhumane. Imagine if one of your family members was molested.
But aren't there less extreme ways to punish criminals? Prison time, for example?
Prison is useless. You get locked up for a year and then you're out. They'll be like, oh I was in prison and I received food and all. So I basically didn't learn anything! Not much difference with drug kingpins. No, the castration law will make people think, I won't do it again.
What if our prisons were able to rehabilitate these people?
But that's just not the situation. Just look at corrupt politicians—when they have money they live like kings in prison. Although I think these corrupt guys and drug kingpins should be put in the same cell, and receive the same punishment.
Do you think corrupt politicians should be castrated too?
No, let's leave the castration strictly to the pedophiles.
Hi Azi, how do you feel about the government's plan to chemically castrate pedophiles?
I agree with it. If a pedophile goes to a rehab, it won't kill their desire completely. Nobody knows what sort of remedies will actually curb pedophilic desires. Castration is the only known preventive measure.
So you think it's better to focus on castration than rehabilitation?
I don't think rehabilitation is useless, they still need to go to rehab. But it's like smoking—sometimes you just can't stop.
I personally disagree with the plan. My argument is that there are other humane ways to solve the problem. Am I wrong?
I read somewhere that people who were abused themselves have a higher percentage of becoming pedophiles. We have to be able to break the cycle.
What do you think of international pressure to not pass this law?
Of course there's international pressure. Foreign powers are always like, ugh, Indonesia's so inhumane. But what else can you do? This could serve as a form of shock therapy. In the near future after the law is enforced, maybe it can be removed after the cycle is broken.
Is chemical castration enough to protect our children?
No it's not. Schools need to monitor the movement of, say, strangers coming into the school. Prospective teachers also need to undergo an intense screening before they can be admitted. And we should work with our communities. Neighbors should have a hand in protecting children.
What role should sex education play?
That's also necessary. The children themselves need to be taught about sex a bit earlier than they are now. The Constitutional Court unfortunately pulled the plug on sex education as part of the curriculum and that's so unfortunate. Sex education isn't about promoting sex. It's about educating people to know what's right or wrong. And that includes what measures to take when you've been sexually abused.
It seems that you think there are other ways to deal with this problem?
There are definitely other ways and if our education system was as good as in other countries then we wouldn't really need punishments like chemical castration. I know it sounds reactive, but I think the problem is so big so I'll give the government a free pass.
Do we need to castrate convicted pedophiles?
I personally agree with the plan to castrate them.
It will prevent the same shit from happening again.
Are there less extreme ways to rehabilitate pedophiles?
Extreme in what way?
Extreme in the way of making someones genitals stop working. Couldn't longer sentences for example help curb the problem?
I think pedophilia is a mental disease. If it's just more prison time, there will be more cases.
Do you think castration violates basic human rights?
No. Let's look at it this way: Pedophiles have violated the human rights of children, right? It should be an eye for an eye.
Do you think we've done our best to protect our children?
I don't think so. If there are still cases of pedophilia we haven't done our best.
H. Sudungan, 28
Do pedophiles deserve to be castrated?
No. Pedophilia is a mental disorder and it can be rehabilitated or redirected. Castrating people is also against human rights.
Do you believe that pedophilia is a massive problem?
Definitely. It changes someone's—kids to be exact—futures. Parents and teachers shouldn't take their hands off the wheels like that. Pedophiles will always be there. All we can do is prevent them from doing something harmful.
Would you feel the same way if your kid was sexually abused?
Of course I'd be mad. No parent would get over their children being abused. But whatever happens, if you behave irrationally then the outcome will be far from the desired one. I'd want the abusers to be punished accordingly, but not like this.
What do you think about those who are all for this law?
I'd ask them about why they'd feel that way. Is it only because of the what if it was your kid reason?
I've talked to a lot of people who said that.
I'm sure, but I'm not saying pedophiles shouldn't be punished, but in other ways. Castrating or hormone therapy slowly kills them doesn't it? It's similar to torturing animals—letting them rot and die slowly. That's just not right.
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