Kuala Lumpur: After a South Korean court punished a pedophile with Asia`s first chemical castration, Malaysia`s Bar Council has suggested similar treatment should be considered for repeat sex offenders as an alternative form of sentencing.
Bar Council President Lim Chee Wee, however, said the available medical studies on the treatment suggested there were serious side effects involved in its use.
"Certain jurisdictions around the world, such as the Czech Republic and some American states, have laws on the compulsory treatment of some sex offenders by way of chemical castration," Wee said.
"While chemical castration as an alternative form of sentencing fulfils the dual purpose of both protecting the public and punishing the guilty, the health interest of the guilty is important."
"Nonetheless, this alternative form of sentencing deserves study in Malaysia and if applied, should be meted out to repeat offenders who consent to it," he said in an email to Malaysian newspaper the New Sunday Times.
Chemical castration is the administration of medication to reduce sexual urges.
On January 3, the South Korean court sentenced the 31-year-old pedophile to 15 years in jail and ordered chemical castration. South Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt this type of treatment in 2011, although Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and the US state of California have used it for years.
Meanwhile, Women`s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah felt the procedure could be seen as a form of medical treatment, and should only be considered in cases where the offender had no control over his sexual urges.
"The vast majority of rapists rape knowingly and deliberately and they should be punished according to the existing laws. Only a very, very tiny number of rapists do so because of a condition such as mental illness," Ivy said.
All Women`s Action Society (Awam) president Ho Yock Lin believed chemical castration was cruel, saying its irreversible nature made it a dangerous form of punishment.
"It`s not a way to stop rape, just as capital punishment has not been an effective deterrent against drug offences."
The root causes of rape and violence against women, she said, should be addressed through the promotion of gender equality and women`s rights.
India is also debating whether to introduce punishment like chemical castration to check crimes against women in the wake of the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, who died in Singapore last month.