Rape is not beastly though it certainly is barbarian; it is an indefensible crime. Yet India has not been able to prevent rape, not to speak of controlling the crime. There cannot be so many policemen watching every possible contact of a male or a female. If at all, the law courts could move much faster when a case is filed. Even that acceleration will not help to abolish the incidence of rape.
Many a punishment has been suggested, including the death sentence. Once a convict is executed, he is forgotten. All that is achieved is that the same man cannot repeat a rape. In my view, the most effective deterrence should be to punish the convicted by castration, a punishment which has been suggested by a few citizens. Its virtues are several. The state does not take the life of the guilty. The biggest motivation of the man to rape is to prove that he is virile, that he can bring a woman to instant submission and to give himself a perverse sense of triumph. The imaginary sexual satisfaction could be better achieved with the help a sex worker but the young criminal might not know. The older criminal is unquestionably a perverse maniac plus a coward.
In India, as a society, citizens feel embarrassed but not adequately ashamed. Only a few years ago in Uttar Pradesh, a father-in-law raped his daughter-in-law and the supposed compensation to the woman was to marry the old man. In the bargain, her young husband had to divorce her, which incidentally, rendered her children somewhat orphaned. According to the laws of their community, a rape is severely punishable provided the victim can produced four witnesses to the crime before the dar-ul-qaza. How practical that could be is questionable.
Over the centuries, India has faced many a conquering invasion. It was customary for the invaders and their soldiers to convert or enslave defeated enemies, rape their womenfolk and often force them into their harems. Historically, this happened often enough to reconcile society to rape being seen as disgraceful, but not abominable or inhuman. Although in the world context, we must realize that it is an unforgivable black mark on our civilization.
The sentence for rape in China for example is death in most cases. In North Korea, rapists are sentenced to death by firing squad. In Afghanistan, convicted rapists are shot in the head or hanged within four days. In Egypt, rapists are hanged, as they are in Iran, where they are occasionally put to death by stoning (Wikipedia).
It is to be hoped that the Indian conscience will be aroused enough to enable drastic action to be taken. This means not only drastic punishment to the guilty but also an enduring deterrence for others to keep away from this heinous crime.
In some African tribes, rape is heavily punished, because it is considered a violation of property rights, the women being considered belonging to either her father or her husband. Strangely enough, the Red Indians of America considered gang-rape as a means of punishment of an adulterous wife. In some countries like France, there is distinction between statutory rape and rape as is commonly understood. Statutory rape means taking sexual advantage of a person in a subordinate or a subservient position, for example, an employer forcing himself upon his secretary. In such cases, even at 18, the victim would be considered a child. My own conclusion is that a rape convict should be punished by no other means than surgical castration so that he realizes for the rest of his life his inadequacy and suffers the lack of potency which he was so proud of. A death penalty ends with the hanging. The guilty individual does not survive to regret. The rest of the world hardly would remember the particular crime, nor the guilty or the victim. Capital punishment has very little utility as a deterrent to other men. On the other hand, surgical castration of a young man will make him a eunuch. In the bargain, he would be a walking advertisement for society to see what happens to a rapist. Chemical castration is not recommended for our country, because it would leave open the door for mistakes or corruption.
Indonesia’s parliament in October 2016 had passed a law authorising chemical castration following a number of high profile cases of child sexual abuse in the country. The first man sentenced to chemical castration in 2019 said he would prefer an increase in prison time or even the death penalty. The Czech Republic practices surgical castration for sex offenders. The law was introduced in 1966. According to official figures, 85 people underwent surgical castration in the Czech Republic between 2000 and 2011. However, this practice has drawn strong criticism from human rights groups.
Ukraine’s parliament in July 2019 had approved a measure to chemically castrate rapists. The legislation will potentially apply to individuals aged between 18 and 65 found guilty of raping or sexually abusing minors.
Sometime ago, Nigerian lawmakers approved surgical castration as punishment for those convicted of raping children under the age of 14, which however, needs to be signed by the country’s rulers for it to become the law. The Nigerian move followed public outrage over a wave of rapes, which prompted the nation’s state governors to declare a state of emergency.
Castration as punishment has been introduced as a law even in the USA. In June 2019, the American state of Alabama enacted a law that would require, as a condition of parole, that some convicted child sex offenders undergo chemical castration. Renowned American media house The Atlantic had written: “The new law will mean that those who abused children under the age of 13 will be injected with hormone-blocking drugs before leaving prison. The state of Oklahoma too, mulled over passing a similar legislation. A similar bill was proposed last year in Oklahoma but met strong opposition.” The US newspaper had added: “Unlike castrating a bull, chemical castration does not involve removing a person’s testicles though the Alabama bill initially advocated the surgical approach. Instead, the procedure uses various drugs to render the testicles irrelevant. In most cases, medication triggers the pituitary gland to reduce testosterone to prepubescent levels.”
The writer is an author, thinker and former Member of Parliament