Increasing reports of rape and child sexual abuse in the country have pushed lawmakers to formulate policies to tackle the pressing issue. Recently in the Alabama state of US, a bill has been tabled which calls for “chemical castration” as a condition of parole for repeat offenders of sexual crimes against women and children so perpetrators don’t commit such crimes.

The law allows a judge to order anyone convicted of a sex offense involving a child under the age of 13 to start receiving testosterone-inhibiting medication a month before release from prison. It also entails that most offenders would have to pay for the treatment, which would be administered by the Department of Public Health. This would be so until a judge decides the medication is no longer necessary.

What is chemical castration?

Chemical castration means castration through anaphrodisiac drug to reduce libido and sexual activity. What differentiates it from surgical castration is that it does not require the removal of gonads through an incision in the body. Chemical castration is not a form of sterilization. It does not completely eliminate a man’s sexual urges but may help reduce it for a certain time period.

Now while death penalty hasn’t shown any dip in crimes against children and women, could chemical castration be a new alternative or is it another gimmicky step taken to appease the public in times of hysteria that occurs after a few cases get highlighted in the media like the Kathua gang rape and murder case, Unnao rape case or the case of the three years old girl allegedly raped in Aligarh in the recent times? Could it have an impact? We spoke to child rights activists, lawyer, and professor of criminology to understand the deal with chemical castration if it can be a deterrent to sexual crimes.

Activists find it incapable of bringing down the crime rate

Uma Subramaniam, who runs an NGO named Aarambh and has fought against child pornography in India, squarely denied the proposition of chemical castration in the Indian context and also raised the issue with Alabama passing the bill. “Alabama is not a benchmark by any sense for us to follow especially after their new abortion law where white men from privileged position have decided whether women are allowed to abort the pregnancy or not. Secondly, these harsh measures like the death penalty and chemical castration cannot bring down sexual crime rates as long as there is impunity in such cases. Child rights cannot be seen in isolation of human rights and hence we cannot have chemical castration as a deterrent for child sexual abuse,” she said.

Another child rights activist, Dr. Kriti Bharti of Saarthi Trust blamed the patriarchal society in India that wouldn’t allow such a law to pass. She noted, “Such a law is very difficult to pass in India as people would oppose it in the name of human rights, while no one comes forward for the victim. Another reason for it is the way our culture has taught us that women are objects and how men are brought up to think that they are above women. The issue of child abuse is more of a mind-set issue than anything else so unless there is proper education, upbringing given to our children and unless we challenge the set notion of gender stereotypes among our generation, such cases will keep on happening.”

This kind of punishment means going back to the barbaric times when ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ solutions and that’s not what modern societies should be doing, reflected Professor Vijay Raghavan who teaches at the Centre for Criminology and Justice of Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS). “One cannot pin down behaviour only on the individual as all crimes are a product of social, political and psychological reasons which get created in society,” he said.

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“These measures are populist measures which don’t come out of any scientific understanding of issues. Despite the fact that we have the death penalty now, the gravity of such crimes hasn’t reduced, on the contrary, it has only increased. Interestingly the women’s movement has also never supported such solutions to such crimes because then we only end up creating a society based on revenge,” Professor Raghavan added.

Can be allowed in case of repeat offenders

While there is a majority of human rights activists who do not find chemical castration as the answer to bringing down the crime rate, former civil servant and currently and Advocate in the Bombay High Court, Abha Singh is of the opinion that it should be brought instated in our law too.

“We can have this law for child rapists, these paedophiles generally have a history of repeated crimes against children so if it is successful then nothing like it. Our legal process is such that it takes a long time for a person to get justice. Meanwhile, these perpetrators come out on bail or parole and then we fail to keep a track of such people. At least in cases of habitual offenders, till the time the death penalty or life imprisonment punishment is given to them, chemical castration could be a solution.

Although on the other side the human rights activists will say that how can we do this until they are proven guilty but at least chemical castration for repeat offenders can be allowed,” said Singh.

Countries like Kazakhstan, Poland in Europe, US states including California, Florida, Guam, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Texas, and Wisconsin have allowed the use of chemical castration against repeat sex offenders. South Korea and Estonia also have authorized its use. In other European countries like Sweden, France, and Germany, chemical castration is available as a voluntary procedure.

The Czech Republic is beyond the level of chemical castration as it permits surgical castration for paedophiles and rapists.

Chemical Castration is an option in several countries because of the fact that it is a misnomer. The process can be easily reversed and won’t stop a man from reproducing. There is not much research done on whether this treatment is effective on women or not.

This kind of punishment means going back to the barbaric times when ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ solutions and that’s not what modern societies should be doing

Swift justice and determining root cause are solutions    

Professor Raghavan suggests that swift justice in cases pertaining to sexual crimes and the kind of values that we inculcate in our children is what can actually help wipe out such sexual crimes. “We need to think about how it is that society has become is so unequal and discriminatory. There are no short term solutions to this issue but what can help the cause is speedy justice. It should be effective and swift and that can actually help reduce crime rate rather than increasing the level of punishment. It is a proven fact that when you have a country which has respect for the law, the crime rate is lower in those countries. Today people feel that they can get away easily after committing such crimes which fails the purpose,” he adds.

Picture credit: News.com.au

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