Mohammed VI pardoned a Spanish pedophile, before reversing himself. The case raised questions about the monarchy, but also exposes Morocco’s inability to confront the plague of sex abuse.
A recent report of widespread sexual abuse against children in Morocco has led to calls for chemical castration of offenders.
However, this demand faces the objection of people who believe that it will violate people’s basic civil liberties.
An estimated 71 cases of sexual abuse against children take place in the kingdom daily, and about 26,000 annually, according to a report by the association “Don’t Touch My Child.”
The country’s penal code punishes sex offenders with up to 30 years in prison, a sentence handed to Spanish national Daniel Galvan Vina in 2011 after he was found guilty of raping 11 Moroccan children in the city of Kenitra.
Vina was released earlier this month in a royal pardon that sparked protests throughout the country.
Top-level diplomacy with Spain helped put Vina back in prison, albeit in his home country.
The “Daniel Scandal” intensified discussion in Morocco about ways to clamp down on sexual abuse against children.
An initiative by a top judge has attracted particular public attention.
Mohammad al-Khadraoui, of the Court of Cassation, wrote in an article published on the popular Moroccan news website Hespress that chemical castration should be considered to punish sex offenders.
The judge cited examples of countries where this measure is applied or experimented with, including France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Norway, South Korea, Russia, Australia and the United States.
Chemical castration refers to the use of medications to stop or reduce the production of testosterone linked with sexual drive.
It is different from physical castration, where the testicles or ovaries are removed.
The effects of chemical castration disappear when the person stops taking the drug.
Despite its temporary effects, chemical castration faces strong objections from rights activists and decision-makers.
Ahmed al-Haaej, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, said it contradicts human liberties, adding that more protective rather than punitive measures are required to combat sex offenses.
The measure is a form of corporal punishment, like the death penalty, which goes against international human rights laws, said Haaej.
Aicha Khammas, a Moroccan lawyer and member of parliament, said the country does not need to authorize such a measure because reforming existing laws would reduce sexual offenses against children and women.
The burden of proof on victims of sexual offense is currently “very heavy,” and the laws should make it easy to prosecute offenders, Khammas added.
“Chemical castration is similar to the death penalty. There’s the right to life, and the right to preserving one’s physical characteristics,” she said.
Anti-androgen medication, given to counteract the effects of male sex hormones (or androgens), is prescribed for medical reasons, not judicial ones, Donald Grubin, professor of forensic psychiatry at Newcastle University, told Al Arabiya.
Allowing judges to order chemical castration for sex offenders “risks making doctors agents of social control, with their obligation switching from the patient to the state,” said Grubin, who coordinated a voluntary program of chemical castration in the UK.
The measure is not a treatment for a sexual offence, but a treatment for a sexual offender where it is medically indicated, he added.
The UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper reported in 2012 that 100 pedophiles were being chemically castrated in England’s Whatton prison.
Gubrin, who was in charge of the program in coordination with the prison service and the Department of Health, said chemical castration helps curb offenders’ tendency to repeat their crimes.
“There is a lack of randomized controlled studies for obvious reasons, but those on medication typically have very low reoffending rates,” he said.
The program was described as entirely voluntary.