Russia is feeling pressure to take action against suspected pedophiles in the face of what many see as a recent wave of child sex abuse there.
Vladimir Rodionov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters
President Dmitry Medvedev has called on Russian lawmakers to consider "chemical castration" for child molesters – a response to what some officials call an unprecedented wave of sexual crimes against minors.
Mr. Medvedev's comments mark the first time the Kremlin has weighed in on the demands by several Duma members and family law experts for tougher penalties for convicted pedophiles.
"Punishments should be as harsh as possible," Medvedev told a government meeting Tuesday. "The state should use all means possible, and a liberal approach here is totally unacceptable. I suggest discussion of measures including medical procedures for such individuals, including injections that would block the action of their hormones."
The issue has been simmering below the surface of Russian politics for several years, with a number of politicians and advocacy groups claiming that liberal laws and lenient courts enable too many offenders to escape punishment or to return to the same criminal behavior after serving brief prison sentences.
"Over the past few days there have been several crimes like this around Russia, including the violent death of child victims," Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin's ombudsman for children's rights, told the Monitor by phone. Mr. Astakhov says he has been urging Medvedev to take a public stand in order to draw attention to the seriousness of the issue.
In the existing system "there is no way to maintain supervision over people who commit such crimes, no means of prevention, and current penalties are not sufficiently severe to deter them from doing it," he says. "In Russian courts, over the past 3 years, 70 percent of these cases ended in reconciliation of the sides," meaning charges are dropped after a court-sponsored process of dialogue between the parties – a measure that is apparently common in nonviolent cases.