The South Korean National Assembly has passed a bill allowing chemical castration as a possible form of punishment for individuals convicted of attempted rape.
It follows from previous legislation enacted in 2011 permitting chemical castration as a form of punishment for sex offenders who have attacked children under the age of 16. The law stipulates that chemical castration may be used for up to 15 years.
Chemical castration involves the administering of medicinal drugs, either via injection or in tablet form, which have the effect of significantly reducing libido and temporarily stops an individual from being able to have an erection. Unlike physical castration, the effects are reversible once a person stops taking the drug.
Passed on Friday by the National Assembly (pictured above), the amendment further expands the use of chemical castration to sex offenders whose acts lead to the death or injury of minors. The original government amendment proposed introducing chemical castration as a form of punishment for individual’s guilty of secret photography of people. However, this element of the bill was dropped.
In spite of this setback, South Korea’s laws regarding sexual assault may be considered some of the most stringent in the world with a person convicted of secret photographing of individuals in public already subject to a possible fine of under 10 million won – c.£6,800 based on current exchange rates – and up to 5 years imprisonment.
Chemical castration as a form of punishment is unusual, but not unheard of. A number of countries, including Russia, Indonesia and Poland, have introduced legislation in recent years making chemical castration a possible punishment option for sex offenders found to have harmed minors.
More infamously in the UK in 1952, the mathematician and computer scientist, Alan Turing, avoided imprisonment for homosexuality – then illegal – on condition of being chemically castrated. In 2009, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology for the way Turing had been treated.
Human rights groups have criticised the forcible use of chemical castration as a form of punishment. In 2016, following Indonesia’s push to introduce chemical castration as a possible punishment method for child sex offenders, Amnesty International issued a press release condemning the move. Amnesty International Researcher to Indonesia, Papang Hidiyat, said:
Forced chemical castration is a violation of the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law
Questions have also been raised about the long-term side effects of drugs involved in chemical castration.
Whatever the controversies surrounding the use of chemical castration as a form of punishment, the legislation reflects the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s push on women’s rights and gender equality. President Moon had already made waves by appointing a record number of women to cabinet posts when assuming office in May 2017.