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Chemical castration is the administration of medication designed to reduce libido and sexual activity. Unlike surgical castration, where the testicles or ovaries are removed through an incision in the body, chemical castration does not actually castrate the person, nor is it a form of sterilization.
Chemical castration is generally considered reversible when treatment is discontinued, although permanent effects in body chemistry can sometimes be seen, as in the case of bone density loss increasing with length of use of Depo Provera. Chemical castration has, from time to time, been used as an instrument of public and/or judicial policy despite concerns over human rights and possible side effects.
Chemical castration involves the administration of anti-androgen drugs, such as cyproterone acetate or the birth-control drug Depo-Provera, which is given as an injection every three months, making compliance easier to track. The antipsychotic agent Benperidol is also indicated for this purpose, and can also be given by depot injection as a means of increasing compliance.
When used on men, these drugs can reduce sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies, and capacity for sexual arousal. Life-threatening side effects are rare, but some users show increases in body fat and reduced bone density, which increase long-term risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. They may also experience gynecomastia (development of larger than normal mammary glands in males), reduced body hair, and loss of muscle mass.
Although chemical castration is presented as a humane alternative to lifelong imprisonment or surgical castration, the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the coerced administration of any drug, including antiandrogen drugs for sex offenders. They argue that forced chemical castration is a "cruel and unusual punishment", and therefore should be constitutionally prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. They also stated that it interfered with the right to procreate and could expose users to various health problems. Law professor John Stinneford has argued that chemical castration is a cruel and unusual punishment because it exerts control over the mind of sex offenders to render them incapable of sexual desire and subjects them to the physical changes caused by the female hormones used.
Some have argued that, based on the Fourteenth Amendment, the procedure fails to guarantee equal protection: although the laws mandating the treatment do so without respect to gender, the actual effect of the procedure disproportionately falls upon men. In the case of voluntary statutes, the ability to give informed consent is also an issue; in 1984, the U.S. state of Michigan's court of appeals held that mandating chemical castration as a condition of probation was unlawful on the grounds that the drug medroxyprogesterone acetate had not yet gained acceptance as being safe and reliable and also due to the difficulty of obtaining informed consent under these circumstances.
In 1981, in an experiment by P. Gagne, 48 males with long standing histories of sexually deviant behaviour were given medroxyprogesterone acetate for as long as 12 months. Forty of those subjects were recorded as to have diminished desires for deviant sexual behaviour, less frequent sexual fantasies, and greater control over sexual urges. The research recorded a continuation of this more positive behaviour after the administration of the drug had ended with no evidence of adverse side effects and recommended medroxyprogesterone acetate along with counselling as a successful method of treatment for serial sex offenders.
The first use of chemical castration occurred in 1944, when diethylstilbestrol was used with the purpose of lowering men's testosterone. Chemical castration is often seen as an easier alternative to life imprisonment or the death penalty because it allows the release of sex offenders while reducing or eliminating the chance that they reoffend.
In 1966, John Money became the first American to employ chemical castration by prescribing medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA, the base ingredient now used in Depo Provera) as a treatment for a patient dealing with pedophilic urges. The drug has thereafter become a mainstay of chemical castration in America. Despite its long history and established use, the drug has never been approved by the FDA for use as a treatment for sexual offenders.
California was the first U.S. state to specify the use of chemical castration as a punishment for child molestation, following the passage of a modification to Section 645 of the California penal code in 1996. This law stipulates that anyone convicted of child molestation with a minor under 13 years of age may be treated with Depo Provera if they are on parole after their second offense and that offenders may not reject the treatment.
The passage of this law led such similar laws in other states as Florida's Statute Section 794.0235 which was passed into law in 1997. As in California, treatment is mandatory after a second offense.
At least seven other states, including Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, have experimented with chemical castration. In Iowa, as in California and Florida, offenders may be sentenced to chemical castration in all cases involving serious sex offenses. On June 25, 2008, following the Supreme Court ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the execution of child rapists where the victim was not killed was ruled unconstitutional, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 144, allowing Louisiana judges to sentence convicted rapists to chemical castration.
In the United Kingdom, computer scientist Alan Turing, famous for his contributions to mathematics and computer science, was a homosexual who chose to undergo chemical castration in order to avoid imprisonment in 1952. At the time, homosexual acts between males were still illegal and homosexuality was widely considered to be a mental illness that could be treated with chemical castration. Turing experienced side effects such as breast enlargement and bloating of the physique. He died two years later, with the inquest returning a verdict of suicide, although recent research has cast doubt on this result. In 2009, the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology for the "appalling" treatment of Turing after an online petition seeking the same gained 30,000 signatures and international recognition. He was given a posthumous Royal Pardon in December 2013.
In 2008, an experimental intervention program was launched in three Portuguese prisons: Carregueira (Belas, Sintra), Paços de Ferreira and Funchal. The program developers note the voluntary nature of the program a crucial factor in its success. They initially planned to cover ten inmates per prison, contemplating a possible enlargement to other prisons in the future. The program also included a rehabilitation component.
On September 25, 2009, Poland legislated forcible chemical castration of child molesters. This law came into effect on June 9, 2010; therefore in Poland "anyone guilty of raping a child under the age of 15 can now be forced to submit to chemical and psychological therapy to reduce sex drive at the end of a prison term".
On April 30, 2010, a man in the United Kingdom found guilty of attempting to murder a 60-year-old woman in order to abduct and rape her two granddaughters agreed to undergo chemical castration as part of the terms of his sentence.
In October and November 2013, the Macedonian authorities were working on developing a legal framework and standard procedure for implementation of chemical castration that would be used for convicted child molesters. The castration is intended to be voluntarily, where as for the child molesters that repeat the criminal act it should be mandatory.
After the outrage followed by a gang rape of a woman in Delhi, the Government has submitted a draft proposing chemical castration along with an imprisonment of up to 30 years for rape convicts as part of the anti-rape law in India. The ministry is preparing a detailed bill and the recommended changes are under review. Government is also planning to re-defining the Juvenile Act and lower their age. One of the accused in the rape case is a juvenile and aged a few months less than 18 years. A view has been expressed by a section that only those below 15 years should be described as juvenile.
In May 2009, two brothers from Haifa—convicted child molesters—agreed to undergo chemical castration to avoid committing further crimes.
In 2010, a repeat child sex offender who had been subject to chemical castration inappropriately touched and kissed a young girl. He was found not guilty by a jury, which was not informed of the context of his previous offenses.
In New Zealand, the antilibidinal drug cyproterone acetate is sold under the name Androcur. In November 2000 convicted paedophile Robert Jason Dittmer attacked a victim while on the drug. In 2009 a study into the effectiveness of the drug by Dr David Wales for the Corrections Department found that no research had been conducted in New Zealand into the effectiveness and such trials were "ethically and practically very difficult to carry out."
In July 2011, South Korea enacted a law allowing judges the power to sentence sex offenders who have attacked children under the age of 16 to chemical castration. The law also allows for chemical castration to be ordered by a Ministry of Justice committee. On May 23, 2012, a repeat sexual offender known only as Park was ordered by the committee to undergo this treatment after his most recent attempted offense. On January 3, 2013, a South Korean court sentenced a 31-year-old man to 15 years in jail and chemical castration, the country’s first ever chemical castration sentence.
In October 2011, Russia parliament approved a law that allows a court-requested forensic psychiatrist to prescribe the chemical castration of convicted sex offenders who have attacked children under the age of 14.