Saturday, March 14, 2009

Castration for sex offenders?

By Don Klein

To most of us there is nothing more despicable than a child molester or a person who rapes. These are usually men who have an uncontrollable need to dominate those weaker than themselves – children and women. Sex is just the weapon they use.

I come to this subject not with any psychological credentials but from the perspective of a onetime police reporter who had a keener knowledge about sex crimes than ordinary members of society. It has been said many times than rape has little to do with sex and most to do with dominance.

Even if that is so, when one person brutalizes another person by destroying their will and making their body the tool of their rage, it should be considered a sex crime. It has been with humanity through the ages. A large part of ancient slavery was not only dominance but sexual bondage.

The battle cry of embattled hordes through history has been "kill the men and carry off the women." Women and children were viewed as spoils of war, booty that the Romans, for example, brought home after military campaigns to be sold at auction to toil as human property. Through World War II and continuing today in Darfur, rampaging armies on all sides have committed rape almost as a battle ritual.

But that is war and much is ignored in the name of the awful stress of combat. Not so back in civilian life and that is the problem where often the rapist and child abuser roams our streets looking for vulnerable individuals to prey upon. Their only explanation for some is the uncontrollable urge to satisfy their need to dominate and harm others of lesser physical dimensions.

There are others, however, who just like to beat other people, especially those they deem helpless. These are bullies who consider sex domination a personal conquest and proof of their superiority and even their cockeyed rights.

The sex offender is a societal abomination who is driven by ugly impulses. Laws won’t stop them. Police cannot protect everyone. The courts can lock them up, but it will not change the offender. Society can label them as sex offenders but they are like a can of gasoline near an open flame – you never know when they will explode, if at all.

For years there have be those who advocate the castration of sex offenders. This they say will serve two purposes. For one, it will end their sex drive and also will serve as a deterrent. In Prague recently, a man only identified as Pavel, volunteered to be surgically castrated to rid himself of his offensive trends.

Twenty years ago, when Pavel was 18, he lured a 12 year-old boy from his neighborhood into his home and stabbed him five times. Pavel said his sexual desires were set off after viewing a Bruce Lee martial arts film. He has spent some of the time since in prison or institutionalized. Today he works as a gardener at a Catholic charity.

"I can finally live knowing that I am no harm to anybody," he said in an interview with The New York Times, "I am living a productive life. I want to tell people that there is help."
The question is, is this the answer to the problem posed by sex offenders? Is castration better than having to live the rest of your life branded as a sex offender who must report where he lives to authorities whenever he moves and be an immediate suspect of every sex crime which occurs in his neck of the woods?

Castration as a deterrent is questionable if the act results from irrepressible instincts, not cool premeditation? And isn’t castration a draconian solution in a nation which prides itself on the Eight Amendment of the Constitution barring "cruel and unusual" punishment?

Then again when you weigh that against the cruelty suffered by the victims of sex crimes, which in many cases lasts a lifetime, where should the weight of the law fall? The only deterrent to crime seems to be when the individual responsible for the criminal act is caught, tried and locked away in prison. It doesn’t stop others from following in his path. And when you are dealing with instinctive crimes, it is not even in the quotient.

But the question of castration for convicted sex offenders is an appealing thought for many. Why should society care how severely a sex brute is treated after the commission of such heinous crimes? As Pavel said after his castration he now can live a normal life. Maybe castration is not so grievous after all.

The recent focus on violence in the home has reduced substantially those instances of wife beatings. More women call police for help and wife beaters have gotten the message that you can’t get away with brutalizing your spouse.

Perhaps if more attention was placed on sex crimes there would be a reduction in the number of men who rape not because they can’t control themselves but for the so-called pleasure of dominance. Cutting off the male sex organs could work as a threat to these. But is this the only solution we can find in a so-called civilized community?

Before answering that question I would remind everyone that the United States is one of the few industrialized nations of the west that still executes criminals convicted of capital crimes. What is as cruel as taking a person’s life? Certainly not castration.

NEXT: There will always be swindlers.

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