Thailand is about to pass a law allowing chemical castration of sex offenders to prevent them from committing crimes again. The bill has been proposed by the Ministry of Justice and has already passed three readings in the House of Representatives. After receiving overwhelming support from lawmakers, this more punitive approach to sex crimes is now under review by the Senate.
Chemical castration is not a new form of punishment. It has been used in South Korea, Pakistan, Poland, and at least eight US states. Other countries – including Norway, Denmark, and Germany – have opted for surgical castration of serious sex offenders.
Prison service records show that 1,037 convicted sex offenders reoffended in the first year after their release from prison. About 1,700 reoffended within two years of their release, while 2,111 were victims of sexual assault within three years.
Earlier this year, a guard raped a resident of a condominium in Bangkok. Criminal records show that the rapist, who confessed to his crime while in custody, had previously served a prison term for raping a teenager.
Then there was the case of the criminal dubbed Thailand’s very own “Jack the Ripper”. Somkid Pumpuang’s multi-provincial massacre in 2005 claimed the lives of five women before he was finally arrested six days after the fifth murder. He was released in early 2019 but just seven months later murdered a 51-year-old hotel keeper he was dating.
“When such crimes are reported, people pray to Buddha on their bare knees that this will be the last incident, but unfortunately it never is,” said Palang Pracharath party MP Patcharin Samsiripong.
That’s how the MP, one of the main supporters of the bill, wondered. Patcharin studied criminal law at Sam Houston State University in the US and returned to do a PhD in criminology at Mahidol University. In parliament, she actively pushed for the new bill, claiming it will be effective in preventing crime.
Areyasakul, a sex crime victim, supports chemical castration because she believes it will prevent sexual abuse and bring justice to victims. “It is not fair to the victims if their attackers are only fined or jailed,” said Areyasakul, a well-known blogger.
In an online poll conducted in 2020, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of Thais supported chemical castration.
Patcharin said that if the law goes into effect, convicted sex offenders would receive injections that could – at least temporarily – prevent them from committing the same crime again. “The castration will not be permanent,” she said.
Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin recently said that convicts could be injected with certain drugs to reduce their sexual desire, adding that the procedure would be carried out in accordance with medical standards.
Convicts undergoing chemical castration are given an injection every three months and are required to wear electronic monitoring equipment. Each injection costs about 10,000 baht.
Urologist Dr. Kampanart Pornyoskrai explained that chemical castration works by lowering testosterone levels in the sex offender’s body.
Minister Somsak said chemical castration would only be performed with the approval of the court, the consent of the convict, and recommendations from at least two doctors. “The process is not barbaric.
Several countries have introduced this method,” emphasizes the Minister of Justice. From Somsak’s point of view, the bill is “progressive” and he hopes it will pass.
“We are pushing for this bill because we hope it will make Thai society safer,” he added.
The director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation does not think chemical castration will reduce sex crimes. “Although the sentence was increased in 2019, the number of rapes has not decreased,” said Jadet Chaohilai.
According to him, sexual crimes are rooted in a patriarchal attitude. To get to the heart of the problem, the focus must not only be on laws but also on how ingrained patriarchal attitudes can be changed.
Urologist Kampanart said research shows that sex crimes are slightly down in countries that introduce castration – surgical or chemical – as a punishment. However, this creates a new problem: more rape victims have been killed, apparently because rapists are afraid of being caught and neutered.
“In addition, we cannot ignore the possibility of scapegoating and neutering,” said Kampanart.
He also points out that the burden on taxpayers is relatively high. For example, many Britons have expressed their dismay at having to bear the costs of chemically castrated convicts.
Jadet does not agree with the introduction of chemical castration because he believes that another sex offense can be prevented in other ways. “The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security should campaign against sexual assault and harassment,” he said. “The Department of Education should also promote gender equality through schools.” He added that touching or staring unfairly could also be considered sexual harassment.
Jadet lamented that while public campaigns have succeeded in removing rape scenes from television series to some extent, variety shows still feature sexually explicit acts, sometimes bordering on sexual harassment. “For example, comedians touch women’s body parts or ask women to sit on their laps. Such content should be monitored,” he said.
Meanwhile, because of their primitive attitudes, women and girls may face sexual harassment in their daily lives, he added. “Complaint lines and response procedures must also become more effective. Although there are some channels, few victims actually file a complaint because they doubt whether they will get help,” Jadet said.
To take effective action through laws to combat sex crimes, the country needs to change the definition of rape, he said. Currently, Thai law only recognizes rape as a crime when it is committed through the genitals.
“However, this law does not recognize what can happen to, say, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people,” he said.
Last but not least, Jadet said corrections should make efforts to change the behavior of convicts while behind bars. Their attitude needs to be changed so that they behave better when they get out of prison.
“Currently, convicts only feel angry and vindictive when they’re behind bars,” he finally added.
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