The Madras high court’s suggestion to the central government to consider castration as a punishment for convicts of child sex abuse has triggered a fresh debate on the issue that has attained alarming proportions in India in recent times.
“The (existing) law is ineffective and incapable of addressing the menace,” said justice N Kirubakaran said, adding “the court is sure castration of child rapists will fetch magical results.”
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a child is abused every 30 minutes in India. Over 19,000 child abuse cases were reported in 2014. India witnessed 151% increase in child rapes in five years (5,484 in 2009 to 13,766 in 2014). The actual figures could be even higher because a large number of such cases go unreported due to the social stigma attached with the crime.
The national capital was shocked earlier this month when two children were kidnapped from crowded areas and abused on opposite ends of the city.
Justice Kirubakaran was alarmed by the growing number of crimes against children that are on the rise despite the stringent law - Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) - that came into effect in 2012.
POCSO Act prescribes a minimum 10-year jail term for child rape and maximum life imprisonment while the punishment for gang rape of a child ranges between 20-year jail term to life imprisonment.
Justice Kirubakaran is not the first judge to suggest castration as a possible punishment for child rapists. In 2011, Delhi additional district judge Kamini Lau had made a similar suggestion.
Chemical castration, which involves the person taking a host of drugs to inhibit sexual urges, has been used in other countries such as Israel, the UK and many states in the US.
However, the procedure’s success and its impact on crime rate remain a controversial issue with many activists questioning its desirability. In the UK and the US, child rape convicts can opt for chemical castration in lieu of prison term.
Justice SN Dhingra, a former Delhi high court judge said: “Chemical castration can’t be the only form of punishment for child rape convicts. But it can certainly be considered along with a jail term.
“Any punishment which comes after so many years won’t serve the purpose. What is needed is quick investigation and time-bound trial. We need specialized courts and prosecutors who are sensible and know how to deal with victims of child sex abuse,” Justice Dhingra added.