Czechs criticized for surgically castrating sex offenders

Europe’s leading human rights body has urged the Czech Republic to stop surgically castrating sex offenders immediately. The Council of Europe has called the treatment ‘degrading’ and unnecessary. Czech doctors have come out in defence of the practice, which they call effective.

Aleš Butala
The Czech Republic is the only country in Europe that still uses surgical castration as a possible means of treating sex offenders. On Thursday, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee released a report condemning the practice. Aleš Butala was one of its authors:

“Surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention, and cannot be considered as a medical necessity in the context of the treatment of sex offenders. The intervention removes a person’s ability to procreate and has serious physical and mental consequences. That is why the Committee for the Prevention of Torture is of an opinion that surgical castration of detained sex offenders amounts to degrading treatment.”

Surgical castration is voluntary in the Czech Republic, but the report’s authors questioned just how well-informed patients were in the lead up to the treatment. Czech sexologist Petr Weiss insists that his patients know all the details before they give their consent:

“I think that they are informed on the highest level about what their options are. They have a lot of literature in Czech at their disposal about castration. And when they don’t understand something, doctors explain it to them. So I am really sure that all the information that patients need is at their disposal.”

It has been said by the authors of this report, and indeed Czech Minister Michael Kocáb, that this procedure has not been proven to be 100 percent effective. Why would you, therefore, continue to practice it?

“The Czech model of treatment is very successful in comparison with foreign treatment programmes. We have, in a twenty-year period, a 17 percent relapse rate. This result is one of the best in the world. But, even better is the result after surgical castration. When this sort of castration is connected with psychotherapy, there is a zero-percent recidivism rate. Not one of our patients has relapsed in the past thirty years.”

Aleš Butala of the anti-torture committee paints a different picture:

“The delegation that visited the Czech Republic in March and April came across three cases in which sex offenders had committed serious sex-related crimes, including serial rape and attempted murder, after being surgically castrated. So surgical castration is not an effective treatment.”

According to the Czech government, some 94 men have been surgically castrated in the past ten years. Around 300 more have taken part in a chemical castration programme, the likes of which is being tested in Great Britain, France and Poland. The Czech government has said that it will not abandon this practice in light of this new report, but the Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has promised a review of the current situation.