Angiography

Castration for child rapists is as horrible as the crime itself

Let's never accept the fallacious argument that barbaric crimes need barbaric laws to counter them.

 |  Angiography  |  5-minute read |   26-10-2015
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If you thought outrageous statements were a specialty of the BJP-Shiv Sena brigade and their assorted brethren wearing various shades of saffron, you couldn't be more wrong. Somehow, the esteemed judges of Madras High Court manage to astonish you at an alarming rate of regularity, with the same kind of hardened idiocy, which range from woefully moronic (such denying alimony to women divorcees who have had sex post dissolution of marriage, or suggesting that rape victims should marry the rapists to find an amicable solution) to the downright "barbaric", such as saying castration would fetch "magical results", since "the (existing) law is ineffective and incapable of addressing the menace".

The October 16 judgment by Justice N Kirubakaran of the Madras HC, strongly worded though it is, correctly pointing out that "the court cannot be a silent spectator, unmoved and oblivious of the horrible blood-curdling gang-rapes of children in various parts of India", nevertheless relies on a one-size-fit-all concept of crime and punishment. In fact, the existing law [Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO)] is stringent enough, and increasing the quantum of punishment is not going to make the situation any better. Rising crime graph, notwithstanding, castration will not help in curing this menace, just like death penalty is not a deterrent against murder.

How can "curbing libido", via surgical removal or chemical deactivation of the testes, deter rape of women and children when rape is NOT about sex at all? Rape is about power: heinous, brutal expression of power over the relatively and temporarily powerless. Rape is not a matter of libidinal overdrive or a sign of moral decay of a society at large. Rape is patriarchy at its worst and most distilled gist: it's the concentration of the centuries of prejudice and biases against women, children, even religious, caste and sexual minorities. Rape is a tool in the hands of those with power. That's why militarist and militarised regimes see a spike in rape across the board. That's why rape in war zones always gets covert institutional nods. That's why we grade rapes and consider bone-chilling rape and mutilation of a female Maoist in the jungles of Dantewada less of a crime than the in-your-face assault on our women and children in the urban sprawls like Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Rape is not about heightened libido, but it is a "sexual offence" alright. Though the bolstered Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Act of 2013 (which sprang from Justice Verma Commission in the wake of the "rarest of rare" December 16, 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case) expanded the ambit of rape from penile penetration of the vagina to include digital intrusion, we are not seeing a drop in the number of rapes, but a rise! Those demanding death penalty for rapists have set their tones at a louder pitch. There's a febrile panic among the educated, moneyed and behind the high iron gates of "urban villages" that their Bastille has been breached by the migrating, laboring, sweaty and grimy city squatters out to get our women and children.

castration-rape-embe_102615060339.jpg Protest against child rape in Allahabad. [File photo/PTI]

So, like the Madras HC judge, they resort to the "eye for an eye" way out, candidly and unapologetically admitting that "barbaric crime should attract barbaric models of punishment". Castration, they agree, is "barbaric" - they are well read on its medieval applications; and they confidently cite how Florida, that sun-kissed American southern heaven drenched in oil, bathed in milk, and California, the West Coast of America's golden innovation, have kept up the tradition.

But they inevitably fail to read beyond the 72-font-sized headlines that swim in gore and reverse gore. While Saudi Arabia beheads, or cuts off hands and whips an alleged offender in public, the American pretence allows for chemical liquidation of humanity and bottomline dignity through a potent potion of over-medicalised law. The doctor's needle that shuts down the testosterone factory, looks more civilised than the scimitar that just cuts your balls off. Moreover, the proponents of "castration as magical solution" forget that only 60 per cent of the castrated males show demonstrable loss of sexual appetite, since the male hormone testosterone originates not only from their (now removed/chemically annihilated) testes, but also from adrenal glands above the kidneys. Doctors confirm that you can be castrated and still experience penile erection, something that our half-baked experts refuse to accept. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

And even if there's the medically precipitated erectile dysfunction, that is the criminal is punished by his inability to experience hard-ons, how is that going to prevent grisly rapes in which iron rods, broken bottles, glass shards, steel forks and other sharp and readily available objects are used to mutilate? And doesn't the very suggestion - that a shriveled penis will take care of all kinds of sexual offences - reek of patriarchy retreating into itself to find a so-called "solution" for its own doings?

The cycle of crime and punishment, in which we allow the State to legally penetrate us so that we don't illegally penetrate ourselves (through castration, death penalty or surveillance), is a self-perpetuating and vicious loop. Education, awareness, community participation and institutional accountability can thaw centuries of biases that a state (and its appendages) teetering on totalitarian tendencies cannot.

Let's not agree to surrender our freedoms at the altar of security (as defined by the State), or our responsibility as thinking citizens at the doorstep of state-sponsored wrongs in the name of right. Let's never accept the fallacious and uncivilised argument that barbaric crimes need barbaric laws to counter them. Let's not become barbarians in our furious zeal to punish the barbarians.      

Writer

Angshukanta Chakraborty Angshukanta Chakraborty @angshukanta

Former assistant editor, DailyO

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