Introduction to Special Article on Human Rights
Published online: 28 August 2007
Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007
Tony Ward, Theresa Gannon, and Astrid Birgden have written an excellent article on
human rights as they pertain to the treatment of the sex offender. It is published in
this issue of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment as a special article.
According to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, human rights refers to “the basic
rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right
to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law.”
When a person is convicted of a sexual crime, the state (the courts) may (1) restrict
their right to liberty through incarceration, (2) restrict their right to privacy by public
registration as a sex offender, (3) restrict their rights to liberty and equality before the
law by prohibiting them from living in the residence of their choice, (4) restrict their
rights to association with past or potential victims through the wording of probationary
orders, among other restrictions.
While restrictions placed on sex offenders represent a withdrawal of their human
rights, these have not been seen as abuses of their human rights. Incarceration as part
of criminal sentencing is part of the punishment for their criminal behavior. By
committing a sexual assault, the sex offender has abused their own victim’s human
rights. The state’s restriction of liberty is partly done as punishment for the suffering
of the victim. And, restrictions of sex offender’s liberty and privacy rights are done
in the interests of preserving the safety of the public.
Recent legislation throughout the Western world has increased the ability of the
state to place restrictions on sex offenders rights. Such legislation includes civil
commitment, registration, and public notification. Generally, such legislation has
been welcomed by members of the general public in the hopes that such restrictions
provide for their safety and that of their children.
In a climate of increasing restrictions placed on sex offenders, do we need to
worry that such restrictions eventually become abusive to the offender? How do we
Sex Abuse (2007) 19:193–194
H. Barbaree (*)
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada