Attacking a child is a crime regardless of the nature of the attack. But sexual offences against children are a kind of harm that should never be acceptable. And Alabama has now decided to treat sexual crime against children under 13 with more seriousness. The state approved chemical castration for convicted child sex offenders above the age of 21, as a condition of parole in 2019, according to the Atlantic.
This means that those who were convicted for abusing children under the age of 13 will be injected with hormone-blocking drugs before they leave prison and they will be injected with the medication until a judge, not a doctor, deems it necessary.
The Alabama bill’s sponsor, Representative Steve Hurst, initially argued in favor of the surgical approach but instead, the chemical method was approved. It would make the testicles irrelevant and reduce testosterone to prepubescent levels. While the bill was being debated, Hurst said that if chemical castration “will help one or two children, and decrease that urge to the point that person does not harm that child, it’s worth it.”
However, naysayers have argued that reduction in libido has got nothing to do with reducing crimes against children. A study published in APA PsychNet showed that “an early and persistent general propensity to act in an antisocial manner during childhood and adolescence” was a predictor of sexual assault. Sex offenders don’t have higher levels of testosterone than the average male and recent research found “no evidence to suggest there is anything chemically wrong with sexual offenders.”
Chemical castration works “not because it is treating an abnormal medical condition, but rather because it is inhibiting sexual functioning in the same way it would for most humans,” the research read.
The bill was signed into law by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. The Republican governor had not indicated previously if she approved of the bill but signed it. The new law requires that convicted offenders undergo the reversible procedure, which should begin at least a month before they are to be released. They will have to continue undergoing it even when they are out of prison until a judge orders a stop, according to NBC News.
“If they’re going to mark these children for life, they need to be marked for life,” Hurst told NBC affiliate WSFA of Montgomery. “My preference would be if someone does a small infant child like that, they need to die,” he said. “God’s going to deal with them one day.”
Hurst wants to ensure that potential child sex offenders think twice and are deterred from acting on their thoughts of harming children. Many people supported the law but there are others who believe that it is too harsh even for someone who has attacked children.
State Rep. Juandallynn Givan believes that the law needs to be reconsidered as the desire to hurt children is psychological and not physical. “You have to deal with the mind of a predator,” she said, as per Crime.awm.com. “You don’t worry about the physical body parts. You have to deal with what makes them do what they do,” she added.
Many believe that sexual assault is about power and dominance than libido. However, it has been recorded that surgical castration makes sex offenders unwilling or unable to commit future offenses, reported the Atlantic.
“People say this is inhumane. ‘How can it be any more inhumane than molesting a small child?’ Now that’s one of the most inhumane things there are,” Hurst told WSFA. The Alabama Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the law saying that mandating chemical castration could violate the U.S. Constitution’s 8th amendment, which forbids the use of cruel and unusual punishment.
“They really misunderstand what sexual assault is about, sexual assault isn’t about sexual gratification. It’s about power, it’s about control,” said Randall Marshall, the executive director with the ACLU of Alabama.
A similar bill was proposed in 2018 in Oklahoma but it was opposed strongly. In Moldova, the law was passed in 2012 but it was repealed in 2013 since it was a “violation of fundamental human rights.”