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Chemical castration could replace jailtime for sex offenders, says public prosecutor

Public prosecutor Celso Leal has forced new debate on the possibility of treating sex offenders with drugs to curb their desires.

His thesis, “Sex crimes and Chemical Castration in the Portuguese legal system – the end of a taboo” will be released in Porto next month (in Lisbon in March), and centres on two prerequisites: measures should be reversible, and consensual. If they were, he argues, chemical castration could take place of jail time.

This isn’t the first time these kind of measures have been discussed in Portugal. In 2003, chemical castration was “suggested in parliament as part of proposals to prevent sex crimes”, reports Público – but the idea was “rejected by all major parties”.

In 2009, the MMS (merit and society) movement tried again, only to see the suggestion once again refused – but with prison overcrowding now a major headache for authorities, it could be that this time round the idea gains traction.

As Leal explains, chemical castration could in fact be a great deal more effective than imprisonment. Data shows that “projects with pedophiles” have proved “inefficient”. Chemical castration could be a “civilisational development”, particularly if sex offenders were able to be “perfectly integrated” within society while the levels of drug they took were slowly but surely reduced, until there was no further need for them.

So far, Leal’s ideas have elicited no response from either the Doctors Association (Ordem dos Médicos) or Law Society (Ordem dos Advogados), though psychologists are dubious, saying drugs alone cannot curb what goes on in sex offenders’ minds.

The 41-year-old prosecutor is described as “expecting” controversy. “There is a lot of disinformation”, he explained. “We are talking of a drug that is reversible, with no adverse consequences for the future”.

He added, if “one person stopped committing crimes because of this, I would be happy as that one person could have 50 victims”.

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