France considers chemically castrating sex offenders

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Police in France
Image: Rama.

Debate is underway in France over the possibility of forcing male sex offenders to be chemically castrated. Prime Minister François Fillon has confirmed the government is considering such a move.

Chemical castration is different from physical castration in that it stops being effective if treatment is stopped, making it reversible. It works by using hormones and significantly reduces a target's libido.

The move follows new measures Poland introduced in September to force some paedophiles to be castrated. Germany, Belgium, and parts of the United States have similar laws, and France is among European countries such as Sweden that offer castration voluntarily to convicted sex offenders.

"Chemical castration exists today, it just depends on an agreement by the person concerned," said Fillon. "We have to look at how, as part of surveillance and control measures after someone leaves prison, we might make this more restrictive if necessary." He also told reporters that the government is "not ruling out any line of reflection on any subject" following a ministers' meeting on crime prevention. He said castration may be made "more obligatory".

Should sex offenders be castrated?

The debate was triggered by last week's slaying of Marie-Christine Hodeau, who called police to say she had been shut in the back of a car and told them its manufacturer and registration number before being cut off. A manhunt began and a suspect was quickly arrested, but Hodeau was already dead. Her killer confessed to strangling her and led police to her body.

It later emerged that the same man had earlier been imprisoned for the abduction and rape of a thirteen-year-old girl. After serving his sentence, he had returned to live in the same village as the girl he had raped.

The possibility has been met with both approval and opposition from French politicians. The ruling UMP's spokesman had already asked for the measures, and they were also sought by Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, although she wanted castration to remain voluntary despite tougher laws surrounding it. However, socialist opposition spokesman Benoît Hamon described forced castration as a "deplorable" and "indecent" scheme that might breach international legislation.