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Here is why chemical castration will not help end sexual violence against women

The incumbent government is set to introduce an ordinance to set strict punishments for rapists and sex offenders including the death penalty and chemical castration. Is chemical castration a viable solution to counter rapists in Pakistan?

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The government is set to introduce an ordinance to set strict punishments for rapists and sex offenders including the death penalty and chemical castration, Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem said on Tuesday, reported daily Dawn.

While talking to reporters at the law ministry, Naseem said since the parliament was not in session, an ordinance will be promulgated to “toughen the laws” against rapists. “The penalties include death penalty, imprisonment for [the] entire life, 10 to 25 years of imprisonment and chemical castration,” a statement by the law ministry quoted him as saying.

The minister said an offender could be subjected to chemical castration that would last either “for some time or for life”.

The chances of chemical castration will increase for repeat offenders, Naseem said, adding that “similar laws [are] in place in the United States and other countries.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed chemical castration of rapists in an interview with a prominent anchorperson Dr. Moeed Pirzada. The premier said: “I think he (the rapist) should be hanged publicly. Rapists and child molesters should have public hanging. You do not know the real statistics as well, because it’s under-reported. People do not report it due to being scared or ashamed, women are ashamed, and no one wants to tell.”

There are laws in the country, but violence against women is rampant. In the province of Punjab, The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015 has been passed yet there are numerous cases of violence against women in the province. According to a report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the number of honor killings between June 2017 and August 2018 was 737. The total number of such murders since the organization started keeping records in 2016 stands at 15,222. Honor killing has become almost a norm in many parts of Pakistan where women are treated as a commodity and whose sole responsibility is to be submissive guardians of men’s honor and ego.

Is chemical castration a solution to violence against women?

Chemical castration uses aphrodisiac drugs to reduce libido or sexual activity. It was first used in 1944. According to some media reports, Poland, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Moldova, and Estonia have all introduced legislation to castrate pedophiles in the past decade.

Social experts believe that castration (surgical or chemical) will lead to more violence in many other ways. Gulnara Aytnzhanova, a prominent psychologist, warned chemical castration would lead to pedophiles taking out their anger using violence. “There will be hatred, hatred to society, hatred to other people,” she predicted.

There is an argument that the PM’s approach is unlikely to yield the intended outcomes; reforming the system. Reforms are only effective when problems are carefully identified and plans are implemented to fix the system, said a social media user earlier this week.

Legal experts opine that public hanging and castration become useless if the system remains dysfunctional. Notably, the criminals’ strong belief that the system won’t punish them ever and the victims’ unshakable disbelief in the same system collaboratively cause chaos and social unrest. In Pakistan, the conviction rate in rape and sexual assault cases is abysmally low, under 3%, estimates the Karachi-based War against Rape (WAR).

Read more: Mahwish Arshad’s case: Violence against women is a demonstration of power

Experts and researchers suggest that in Pakistan’s social setting like many other developing polities, is a complex and rigid concept of power. Violence against women, like rape, is a demonstration of power and strength. It should, therefore, be considered from a sociological perspective which helps to understand the context in which these incidents take place.

Dr. Rafia Zakria while proposing the solution argues that “the answer, perhaps, lies in changing the debate and acknowledging that trickle-down feminism is not working to end honor crimes. If communities are clinging to these horrific practices as a means of highlighting their continued power against a modernizing world, then the way ahead may hinge on change at the community level, involving the very people who are now wielding power in tribal jirgas and other grassroots justice mechanisms”.

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