In a column in the Sunday New York Times, Rutgers Law Professor Margo Kaplan created a stir by advocating for the classification of pedophilia as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“By some estimates, 1 percent of the male population continues, long after puberty, to find themselves attracted to prepubescent children,” Kaplan wrote in the article, which ran October 5. “These people are living with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to prepubescents that often constitutes a mental illness. Unfortunately, our laws are failing them and, consequently, ignoring opportunities to prevent child abuse.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act contains a provision that explicitly excludes pedophilia from its otherwise broad definition of mental illness. Similar exceptions exist for transvestism and kleptomania, among others.
As Kaplan sees it, this exclusion, by emphasizing punishment over prevention, makes it more, not less, likely that people with pedophilia will become child molesters.
“It’s time to revisit these categorical exclusions,” Kaplan wrote. “Without legal protection, a pedophile cannot risk seeking treatment or disclosing his status to anyone for support. He could lose his job, and future job prospects, if he is seen at a group-therapy session, asks for a reasonable accommodation to take medication or see a psychiatrist, or requests a limit in his interaction with children.
“Isolating individuals from appropriate employment and treatment only increases their risk of committing a crime.”
Later in the week, Kaplan further elaborated on her perspective in a Q&A with the Philadelphia Magazine.