Spotlight: Turkey mulls chemical castration amid rampant child abuse

 ANKARA, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Turkish government is considering introducing harsher measures including chemical castration for sex offenders after several cases of child abuse made headlines in the country amid a public outcry.

Turkey wanted to impose a measure to chemically castrate those convicted of sex crimes in 2016, but the country's highest administrative court, the Council of State, stopped its implementation last August, saying its definition and limit were "vague."

Now the controversial measure is once again on the table amid widespread child abuse cases. A government commission has been formed and will announce decisions in the coming days.

"The courts will decide on the use and duration of chemical castration to limit or eliminate sexual desire. We wish to establish this again within a few days," Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said Wednesday.

The government was putting the issue back on its agenda, Gul said, adding that, as a father, he was "appalled."


In the latest case to cause widespread outrage in the country, a 20-year-old man has been accused of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in the southern town of Adana.

Prosecutors on Tuesday demanded 66 years in prison for the man after the alleged assault at a wedding party on Feb. 10, Anadolu Agency reported.

On Monday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said a commission on preventing child abuse, which was set up with six ministers including Gul, would announce a series of measures to tackle the very sensitive problem.

Chemical castration, which involves using drugs to reduce libido, does not prevent a person from experiencing sexual urges indefinitely, the effects are reversible. However, health experts have pointed out that the long-term use of some drugs may lead to serious and permanent side-effects, including cardiovascular disease.

Several other countries which use chemical castration as punishment for sex offenders include the United States, Russia, Indonesia, Australia and South Korea.

The number of court rulings on child sexual abuse in Turkey has soared from 3,778 in 2006 to 21,189 in 2016, according to data of Justice Ministry cited by human rights groups.

Nearly 60 percent of the suspects in the 2016 cases were convicted, Turkey's Human Rights Association (IHD) said.

Women's rights groups came out in force on social media against the proposal.

The Women's Assemblies organization criticized on Twitter that chemical castration was "against human rights" and was "a punishment that was distant from modern law."

The group added that "the solution is to stop giving reduced sentences in child abuse cases."

Canan Gullu, a prominent activist for women's rights argued that if Turkey would enforce the existing laws against child abuse and swiftly judges suspects, there will be no need for the chemical castration.

"We need to have swift verdicts with no abatement from the judges for the criminals. We need also to educate people, this is a more humane way to combat the plague of pedophilia and incest cases," said Gullu who is the chairman of the Federation of Women's Associations of Turkey.


The President of the Union of Medical Practitioners (TBB), Rasit Tukel, also expressed concerns over the measure mulled by the government.

"Let's be clear these are criminals, yet when the person is no longer mandated to take the pertinent drugs, he will return to his early self, without any psychiatric change and eventually the same impulses," said professor Rasit Tukel, quoted by daily Hurriyet.

"We should refrain from considering medical procedures as a punishment," he argued.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described child abuse as "dynamite that will push our society to collapse."

Speaking to press after a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), the Turkish president promised to deal with the issue of child abuse in Turkey.

"My mind about these matters is that it is very important to solve all of them in a scientifically meaningful way," he said, warning that growing levels of child abuse "would lead to the collapse of our society."

Turkey was shocked already in January by a scandal about an Istanbul hospital allegedly covering up dozens of pregnancies of underage girls. It reignited discussions in Turkey about child marriages and sexual abuse of children, with critics accusing the government of failing to protect society's most vulnerable group.

The Kanuni Sultan Suleyman Training and Research Hospital reportedly treated 115 pregnant underage girls, 39 of whom were Syrian nationals, in the first five months of 2017.

The reports came out after a psychologist working at the hospital contacted the prosecutor's office. Women's and children's rights activists said the case was just the tip of the iceberg. The Turkish government has launched an investigation into the alleged cover-up by hospital staff.

Hospitals in Turkey are required to inform authorities of pregnancies involving girls under the age of 18. If they are under the age of 15, the cases are automatically considered as sexual abuse.

In Turkey, the minimum age for marriage is 17 for both men and women but exceptions can be made with the consent of legal guardians.

Turkey last November implemented a law that allows state-registered religious scholars to conduct civil marriage ceremonies, a proposal slammed by critics for facilitating child marriages and sexual abuses.

Turkish women's rights groups said that many child brides in Turkey were Syrian, whose family entered the country as refugees and are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.