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Indonesian chemical castration plan comes under fire

Punishment ignores possibility of repentance, church officials say

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Indonesian chemical castration plan comes under fire

The Catholic Church and rights groups in Indonesia have condemned plans by the government to chemically castrate pedophiles, saying the punishment is inhumane and violates human rights.

President Joko Widodo in October voiced his support for adopting chemical castration as a punishment, following a string of child sex abuse cases in recent months.

Chemical castration involves suppressing a man's sex drive by reducing testosterone levels using anti-androgen drugs. The punishment is used in several countries, including South Korea, Russia and in several states in the United States.

"Introducing chemical castration is inhumane," Notre Dame Sister Maria Resa from the Secretariat of Gender and Women Empowerment of the Indonesian bishops' conference told ucanews.com on Oct. 28.

"A punishment applied to pedophiles should not be chemical castration. It should be a penalty that leads them to repentance," she said.

"In prisons, they can be led to repentance through spiritual guidance. If they have a strong will and positive mind, they can definitely change," she added.

The nun said there would probably be less child sex abuse cases if parents protected their children better.

"How do parents keep an eye on their children? This is important. Parents should not let their children play alone," Sister Resa said.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, secretary of the bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, said chemical castration is a clear violation of human rights.

"The government's task is to punish child molesters. But the punishment should not be one that takes away people's rights. Chemical castration does just that," he told ucanews.com.

"The president is trying to dignify law enforcement. So the question is: Where's the dignity if someone is proven guilty and is treated like that?" Father Siswantoko said.



Muhammad Choirul Anam from the Jakarta-based Human Rights Working Group warned the government it could be breaking international law if it introduces chemical castration.

He noted that the Indonesian government ratified a United Nations convention against torture in 1998. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment "prohibits every permanent punishment in any form," he said in a statement on Oct. 28.

Punishment should not be based on getting revenge on perpetrators, he added.

"Chemical castration as a punishment comes from the emotion of wanting revenge," he said.

He said he would support efforts by the government to eradicate sexual violence against children and hand down a harsher punishment to perpetrators.

"But punishment must not carried out arbitrarily," he said.

According to the National Commission for Child Protection, almost 22 million children suffered some form of violence between 2010 and 2014, with 62 percent of these cases involving sexual abuse.

Figures like this show that chemical castration as a punishment for pedophiles is needed, the head of Indonesia's child protection commission says.

In many cases, victims of child abuse become abusers themselves when they become adults, said Erlinda the commission's secretary-general who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"Perpetrators target children. Children who were victims often become predators. This is what we call an emergency. We don't want children to become predators. This is very concerning," she told ucanews.com.

"Should we let it happen? When children are abused they feel strong trauma. This is what rights activists need to understand," she said.

"Chemical castration is appropriate. If there's another harsher punishment, then fine. The important thing is that there is a harsher punishment for this crime."

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