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NAPLES, Italy — What’s the one word in the English language that can make a guy squirm?


In fact, it makes the ladies squeamish, too.

The word sent shivers through Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Perkins on Thursday when she was asked about the potentially life-changing event that has become a hot topic in Italy over the past few days.

Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli, a staunch conservative, suggested Tuesday that the government should sentence violent sex crime offenders to “chemical castration” — a process in which chemicals are introduced into the body either through pills or injections to reduce sexual drive.

Perkins, a 24-year-old master-at-arms stationed at Naval Support Activity Naples, gave a thumbs-up to the procedure. “Especially if the crime involves children, then I’m in favor of it,” she said.

If nothing else, the topic is perfect fodder for the water cooler, and she somewhat relishes the thought of bringing it up for discussion among her peers.

She was more hesitant to wholeheartedly endorse such a punishment for those convicted of rape. Sort of a think before you snip, so to speak.

“It all depends on the specific situation and crime. You know, there’s a lot of ‘he said, she said.’ They’d have to be careful with that,” Perkins said.

The term “chemical castration” is not a medical term, but more of a “media-driven term for various methods of reducing levels of male sex hormones in certain types of patients with so-called ‘paraphilias,’” said Dr. Ronald Pies of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

“These are sexual disorders, including, for example, aggressive or predatory sexual behaviors. Hormone levels are not reduced to the point one would see in actual ‘castration’ and, in fact, non-deviant sexual activity is still possible for these persons,” Pies said.

Most of the treatments for violent sexual offenders are in the class known as “testosterone-lowering medications,” Pies said. The drugs work to reduce blood levels of male sex hormones, mainly testosterone.

Examples include cyproterone acetate (CPA) and medroxy-progesterone acetate (MPA), the latter of which is a synthetic form of the female hormone progesterone, Pies said.

The drugs aren’t without other effects, including weight gain, high-blood pressure, hot flashes and enlargement of male breast tissue.

Because anyone living in or visiting Italy is subject to Italian law, American troops, Department of Defense employees, and their dependents could be singing soprano if convicted.

According to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement of June 1951, the Italian government would have the primary right to prosecute for crimes committed against a local national or if committed outside the confines of a U.S. military base. The U.S. government could seek jurisdiction, but it is not always granted, a Navy official said.

The U.S. government would have the primary right to prosecute for American-on-American crimes, but if U.S. officials chose to do nothing, the Italian government could proceed with its own prosecution, according to the SOFA.

Calderoli proposed the measure following the arrest of illegal immigrants charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in the northern city of Bologna. Some Italian officials have said that the rise in crime is linked to an increase in illegal immigration to the Mediterranean country.

But whether such a controversial law will ever emerge remains to be seen. Army Sgt. First Class Jeff Brunt, stationed in Italy for nine years isn’t counting on it.

“Anything is possible, but I don’t put a lot of stock in it,” said the 37-year-old soldier now with Joint Forces Command. He is all too familiar with the political instability of Italy, which, since the end of World War II, has averaged a new government a year.

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