(My iDiva.com column this week)
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to be on a television debate on this issue, given the Honourable Judge at the Madras High Court, Justice N Kirubakaran, had suggested in a strongly worded judgement that the Centre should consider castration as a punishment for convicted child rapists. The Honourable Judge said, “The court cannot be a silent spectator, unmoved and oblivious of the horrible blood curdling gang-rapes of children in various parts of India.” The judgement, pronounced on October 16 said, crimes against children are rising despite the stringent law in place, namely, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Between 2012 and 2014, sexual crimes against children had risen steeply from 38,172 to 89,423.
The judge added, “The law is ineffective and incapable of addressing the menace. The court is sure the castration of child rapists will fetch magical results. Though the suggestion of castration looks barbaric, barbaric crimes should definitely attract barbaric models of punishment and the very thought of the punishment should deter the culprit from committing the offence.” A recent study by Bachpan Bachao Andolan found cases of sexual abuse of children had a conviction rate of 1%, with 4% acquittals and the remaining 95% remaining unresolved.
There are two kinds of castration, physical castration which is permanent, surgical and irreversible. And chemical castration which involves the administration of drugs, and needs monitoring, and which is reversible when discontinued. According to Wikipedia (link), “Chemical castration is castration via drugs, whether to reduce libido and sexual activity, to treat cancer, or otherwise. Unlike surgical castration, where the gonads are removed through an incision in the body, chemical castration does not remove organs, nor is it a form of sterilisation.
Chemical castration is generally considered reversible when treatment is discontinued, although permanent effects in body chemistry can sometimes be seen, as in the case of bone density loss increasing with length of use of Depo Provera.”
There are two types of treatments that sex offenders can be treated with. The first are SSRIs which are commonly prescribed for depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, and the second are anti-libidinal medication, which work by reducing the levels of testosterone to that of pre-pubescent levels, reducing arousal, sexual interest and consequently sexual behaviour.
The negatives? There are health risks, yes. These also have to be monitored constantly. Stopping the treatment can reverse the effect. But voluntary chemical castration is one of the options worth considering in tandem with the present system, in tandem with therapy.
Castration has been made the penalty for convicted sexual offenders in many countries, including developed nations such as the US, the UK, South Korea, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and others like Indonesia, Poland and Russia. The Czech Republic and four American states (Montana, Florida, Texas and California) also give the convicted sex offender a choice to opt for ‘surgical castration’. In Victoria, Australia, anti androgen treatment is a pre-condition for parole for sex offenders.
Countries like Germany offer sex offenders the option of surgical castration, in a voluntary procedure, along with a waiting period in the event that the offender might want to reconsider their decision. In the UK, convicted sex offenders can opt for a chemical procedure to control their impulses and sexual urges. In fact, there have been cases where convicted paedophiles have opted for voluntary chemical castration because they realise that they are a threat to society. Over 100 convicted sexual offenders in Nottingham, UK have opted for a scheme that involves chemical treatment to reduce their sexual urges to a pre-pubescent level to be combined with counselling. The treatment is only available at the end of an offender’s jail sentence and not as an alternative to prison.
Studies show, “Of more than 700 Danish sex offenders castrated after multiple convictions, relapse rates dropped from between 17 percent and 50 percent to just 2 percent. A Norwegian study showed the same for selected male and female sex offenders (the women had their ovaries removed). In smaller studies of cyproproterone in Scandinavia and Italy, chemical castration was equally effective in some groups of volunteer prisoners, with the most dramatic reductions among paedophiles.”
We do have a very strong law in place, Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act 2012, which could be bolstered by having quicker trials and convictions, special child-friendly courts and more convictions. But to get to the root of the issue, we would need to tackle patriarchy, mindsets and most importantly, educate our children about good touch bad touch, to empower them to know that what is happening to them is not acceptable.
Read the entire article here