By Ria Novosti
By Alexey Eremenko
A bill introducing life sentences and mandatory chemical castration for pedophiles passed the crucial second reading in the State Duma on Friday.
The draft bill, which tighten punishments for most kinds of sex crimes against minors, was introduced by the Kremlin in October and generated much debate and revision before the Friday reading.
The most widely discussed innovation is chemical castration, introduced in Russia for the first time. The bill in its current form only speaks about “mandatory medical treatment” without elaborating, but officials who worked on the draft said it includes both chemical castration and psychiatric drug treatment.
Mandatory castration will be one possible punishment for molesters who abuse children under 14, the Kremlin envoy to the parliament’s lower chamber Garri Minkh, said. Judges will have to consult with medical professionals before giving out this punishment, he added.
Convicts in other types of sex crimes involving minors will have the option of voluntarily seeking chemical castration when pleading for parole, the bill said. Dodging “mandatory medical treatment” after release on parole will be punishable with one year in jail.
The Duma also introduced life sentence as the maximum penalty for gang raping a minor, currently punishable with four to 10 years behind bars.
The bill has to pass one more hearing and gain approval by the Federation Council, the parliament’s upper chamber, before being signed into law by President Dmitry Medvedev. The date for the third hearing was not set on Friday.
Ombudsman for Children Pavel Astakhov said in 2010 that 98 percent of convicted pedophiles commit new sex crimes upon release but for those who undergo chemical castration the figure is only 3 percent. He also spoke, prior to the Kremlin bill’s introduction in the Duma, about a “pedophile lobby” stalling legislation on the matter in the parliament but never named any names.
Child abuse skyrocketed in 2010, increasing several times year-on-year for most type of sex crimes, Astakhov said last year. The dismal situation prompted activists to start vigilante groups tracking down pedophiles to report them to police or, in some cases, beat them up without involving law enforcements.
Countries that currently practice chemical castration for child molesters include Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland and South Korea, as well as several U.S. states, most notably Florida and California. But several human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have protested its use over dire health side effects.
In the past, the practice was applied in other countries and not limited to sex offenders. Its most famous victim was British scientist Alan Turing, one of the fathers of computer science who was chemically castrated for being gay in 1952. He commited suicide two years later.