Russia backs chemical castration for molesters
Russian lawmakers gave initial support on Tuesday to a Kremlin-backed bill allowing judges to order the chemical castration of some convicted child molesters.
The tough new measure was proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in May and will now need to pass two more readings in the Kremlin-controlled State Duma lower house of parliament before being voted on in the upper chamber.
"This is a response to society's concerns over the rise of sexual crimes against children," ruling party lawmaker Oleg Morozov said in televised remarks before the Duma backed the bill 332-0 with one abstention.
Medvedev's measure is a watered-downed version of a 2009 plan that would have made chemical castration mandatory for paedophiles.
That measure never reached the floor for a vote and the new one applies only to offenders against children of 13 years and under, who are diagnosed with psychological problems by doctors.
But the bill still promises to make Russia only the second European nation after Poland to impose the controversial punishment. It has also been practiced in California and some other US states since the 1990s.
Crimes committed against children would receive "the toughest sanctions -- up to life in prison and the application of mandatory medical measures," the Kremlin's Duma representative Garri Minkh said ahead of the vote.
The chemical castration process involves the injection of drugs that reduce a person's libido. The bill says the chemicals may also be administered on a voluntary basis to convicts who want to reform.
Russia's chief investigator said in April that there were more than 9,500 sex crimes against minors in the country last year.
Tuesday's bill was backed by the country's entire political spectrum in an apparent bid by lawmakers to look tough on crime ahead of December's parliamentary polls.
The day's lone voice of caution sounded from Medvedev's human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin -- a gentle critic of some of the Kremlin's more controversial social policies.
Lukin observed that the presidential administration sometimes got carried away with anti-crime and other campaigns that overstepped the bounds of acceptable state behaviour.
"Sometimes we wage a campaign and end up in a very unpleasant situation," the Interfax news agency quoted Lukin as saying.
"Every crime -- especially every crime dealing with paedophilia -- has to be proven very clearly and firmly," Lukin said.