The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee has asked Germany to cease with its practice of castrating sex offenders. In a report issued on Wednesday, the committee said the practice could be labeled as “degrading treatment.”
In 1969, Germany implemented the Law on Voluntary Castration. According to the law, a person over the age of 25 may be subjected to surgical castration if he displays “an abnormal sex drive. . . which gives reason that he will commit one or more criminal offenses.” The idea is that the procedure will rein in the offender’s sex drive and lower the risk of reoffending. Germany points out that the procedure is not mandatory and an offender can only undergo the procedure upon his own consent after being informed of the implications of the procedure and medical approval has been obtained. The German Government also pointed out that of the 104 convicts who opted for the procedure in the 1970’s, only 3 committed sex crimes again whereas nearly half of the 53 who refused or were denied the treatment eventually reoffended.
On its face, the procedure would certainly go against international norms prohibiting cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Does the fact that the procedure is (seemingly) entirely voluntary make a difference? Furthermore, the procedure is still quite rare in Germany with only 5 being performed on average per year over the last decade. Personally I was shocked to find that such a procedure was even an option in the penal system for a modernized nation. Germany is not the only nation that follows the practice as the Czech Republic utilizes castration of sex offenders as well. There is something to be said for the effectiveness of the treatment, but do the ends justify the means? Again, the interesting aspect is the voluntariness of the procedure. I certainly would be curious to find out more about what the criteria are before an offender is even presented with castration as an option.