Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin on Friday voiced support for calls for a law that would force convicted rapists to undergo chemical castration.
The call was made by Democrat MP for Samut Songkhram Rangsima Rodrasmi in the House of Representatives on Thursday as she brought up the subject of sexual violence against women, children and the elderly.
Ms Rangsima suggested that people can be protected from sexual crimes once a law is passed requiring sex offenders to undergo castration -- chemically or surgically. The House has set up an extraordinary committee to study measures to prevent sex crimes.
Reacting to the proposal, Mr Somsak said if the majority agreed, they should draft legislation, noting if the public supported the law, it would not be difficult to push it. He added that the ministry is ready to join forces in pushing for draft laws aimed at boosting public safety.
The move came shortly after serial killer Somkid Pumpuang murdered a 51-year-old woman following his release from prison on May 27. Despite being handed a life sentence in 2005 for murdering five women, Somkid walked free after serving just 14 years.
Mr Somsak said legal measures were required to monitor sex offenders or even throw them back in jail if they have a tendency of repeating their offences. "They should be made to stay in restricted areas for three to 10 years by court order," he said.
The minister also said the whereabouts of rapists/murderers should be known and he was ready to push for a law to make this possible.
However, human rights advocates are concerned that the plan to punish rapists through chemical castration may not be a valid solution.
Chadej Chaowilai, director of the Women's and Men's Progressive Movement Foundation, said: "The root cause of rape is gender inequality in society. The legal definition of rape has been narrowed down from using objects for penetration to using just the penis, which takes away a woman's right to protection.
"For instance, when a rapist uses his finger, he is charged with committing obscenity, not rape. The new legal definition of rape also excludes the LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer] group," he said.
Mr Chadej added that this inequality is also reflected in inefficient law enforcement. "Some male police officers refuse to accept complaints filed by women or will mediate instead because they believe women are to blame for the way they dress or behave.
"Also, since there are very few women in the police force, there is a clear gender bias in their handling of the case," he said.
Mr Chadej attributed the cause of rape to the prevalence of male chauvinism in society.
"Women are often portrayed as submissive housewives and objects of sexual desire. No one respects women's rights despite harsher punishments being handed down for rapists," he added.
Somchai Homlaor, a human-rights lawyer, also voiced opposition to the option of emasculating rapists on grounds of human dignity.
"Convicts should be treated according to the law and human rights principles. What would you do if the person you castrated had been framed?" he asked.
Mr Somchai said the only way to tackle the crime is to eradicate chauvinism in society. "People should learn to respect people's rights and avoid discrimination on the basis of their gender. Sexual harassment results from our patriarchal attitude toward women," he said.
"Crime results from cumulative behaviour and past experiences. If they had been mistreated physically or sexually, they may inflict violence on others," he said.
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, director of the Bangkok-based Cross Cultural Foundation, said the problem of sexual crimes cannot be solved or the morale of victims restored through punishment that does not respect human rights.