There was astonishingly little comment in the Polish press after the senate's decision to pass a law - with only one abstention - radically tightening the punishments for sex offenders on Thursday. Yet the altered law can't be uncontroversial: it makes it obligatory to chemically treat paedophiles and allows for more severe punishments for serious sex offences. Future jail terms would be for three to fifteen years, instead of the previous two to twelve years. Poland would be the only country in Europe with compulsory medical treatment. Similar laws against child abuse otherwise only exist in some states in the USA.
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The theme was only discussed in one Polish daily newspaper, the liberal conservative Rzeczpospolita, yet even there it's only mentioned on the third page. With the title Paedophiles without Surveillance the article speculates about the fate of the current 1, 100 Polish sex offenders. It deals with offenders who have assaulted minors under the age of 15. 130 of these have been defined as paedophiles. The article’s writer Izabella Kacprzak criticises the fact that paedophiles are not kept under surveillance after being released from prison. She names a few examples of re-offending child molesters, among them the 49-year-old paedophile who was released from prison in September to allegedly reoffend and sexually abuse an 11-year-old child.
Such facts fuel the radical actions against paedophiles in Poland. According to the most recent polls, two thirds (84%) welcome the politicians' radical course of action against paedophiles. Even prime minister Donald Tusk supports the tightening of the penal code. On 9 September 2008 he kindled the public anger himself, when it emerged that the 46-year-old Krzysztof B had allegedly been raping his 21-year-old daughter for six years and had fathered two children with her. In a press conference, Tusk commented on the 'Polish Fritzl' case in eastern Poland: ‘I don't think you can call such individuals – such beasts – human beings. I don't think you can talk about human rights in such a case.' There are however voices against the new law in Poland, such as the former health minister and psychiatrist Marek Balicki, who was the only person to vote against the concept in the Sejm. When the lower house voted through the stricter law about four weeks ago without causing a sensation, Balicki criticised the fact that ‘medicine is being degraded to a means of punishment’.
On 9 September 2008, 84% of Poles polled their agreement with Tusk's views on chemical castration
The controversial law now needs to be dealt with once more by the upper chamber because the senators have suggested several technical changes to the law. After that president Lech Kaczyński must sign it. As a nationalist consevative president he'll almost certainly do that too. The Kaczyński twins are well known to be supporters of stricter criminal law. For those who oppose the law - the majority of whom, like Balicki, belong to the left spectrum – all that remains is to file a complaint at the constitutional court.
Watch a video of Donald Tusk speak about chemical castration in the September 2008 press conferencehere(Polish)
The author, Katarzyna Tuszyńska, is a member of the German writers correspondent network n-ost