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Op-ed: Chemical castration of sex offenders

Pakistan has witnessed a series of sexual assault cases. The Prime Minister in September called for chemical castration of sex offenders.

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Reprehensible, deplorable, despicable, extremely repugnant, and unforgivable, indefensible, outrageous, besides a non-compoundable, is the offence rape. However, how much detestable it is, it is still an offence and requires a proportionate punishment after a fair trial. These days, due to the horrifying and appalling motorway-incident of rape, and the surge in these cases, the whole country’s moral conscious is under anguish and pain.

Indeed no compensation except the appropriate punishment could heal the wounds. gHowever, to granulate these anguishing wounds, the authorities at the helm is going to introduce chemical castration as punishment for sex offenders in Pakistan. Wherein, scientifically, certain chemical drugs are being used to reduce a man’s libido or sexual activity by lowering testosterone—the predominant sex hormone in males.

Historically, research has shown that this method of preventing rape is not the new one. In the 18th century, one Dr. Harry Sharp of Indiana surgically castrated male prisoners, and thereafter the state adopted it as a legal punishment, especially for mentally handicapped prisoners. And in the United States during the 1800s, slaves were routinely castrated as a punishment if suspected of having relations with white women.

Read more: Alvi approves new Anti-Rape Ordinance for speedy trial and strict punishments

Furthermore, this type of castration has been used as a punishment against sex offenders since the 1940s. In the United States alone, around 13 states have adopted sterilization, of mentally incompetent persons, for sex offenders. In the recent past,  June 11, 2019, the American state of Alabama had enacted a law that would require, as a condition of parole, that some convicted child sex offenders undergo chemical castration. As per the law: those who raped the child under the age of 13 years will be injected with chemical-hormone-drugs before leaving prison on parole or otherwise.

Likewise, many other countries too have legislated chemical castration for sex offenders in their laws.  For instance, in the United Kingdom, this procedure is used against the culprits of homosexuality. In 2011 the Russian parliament also approved chemical castration as punishment for sex offenders in case of child abuse.

Poland and Moldova follow the same for delinquents in child abuse cases. Indonesia in 2016 through a presidential decree allowed chemical castration in cases of child sex offenders. South Korea also had enacted this punishment in 2011 in its law.   

Read more: Cabinet approves anti-rape bill championed by PM Imran

The prime raison dêtre of the induction of this punishment in our criminal administration of justice is the deterrence theory. Jeremy Bentham—one of the great philosophers—opined in his book “An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)” that every human being has his or her twin objects in life the achievement of pleasure and the avoidance of pain and through the deterrence of pain a person can be restrained from committing an act i.e. which in our case is the crime. Be that as it may, whether a certain punishment enables to create a deterrence is a question of empirical research and could not be answered theoretically. 

And secondly, the reasoning offered by the protagonists of this punishment includes the reduction in the level of recidivism—the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend. Besides, there are four explanations for why legislatures provided chemical castration as an available form of punishment for these offenders.

It can be used for any or all of the following: a method of sterilization, a means of reducing the offender’s sexual libido, a punitive form of punishment, and a treatment for certain medical conditions, like psychological addicts known as pedophiles—a person who is sexually attracted to children. 

Read more: Ineptness of the law is a crime which is most devastating: Of rapes and the society

But certainly, what are the scientific effects of chemical castration, a doctor perhaps could answer the best. However, generally speaking, research shows that testosterone is the major hormone associated with libido and sexual function, and it has been shown in various researches that violent sexual offenders have higher levels of androgens or testosterone. Notwithstanding, a clear cause-and-effect relationship between testosterone levels and sexual offending is also not certain.

So on the basis above said discussion, it can be concluded that no doubt child abuse, brutal sexual assaults, and rape cases have taken a shape of an epidemic in our country. Despite that chemical castration is always seen with doubt as proportionate punishment. Because in criminal administration of justice, the ‘proportionate punishment’ is grund norm inviolable and inalienable principle.

Moreover, it is also not certain yet that whether it has passed the certain tests: firstly, the constitutional test—is it not against the fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan? Secondly, the human rights test—is it not against the human rights recognized universally by all civilized states? Thirdly, and above all, the Islamic injunctions test—is it legal under the injunctions of Islam to chemically castrate an offender?

Read more: Conviction rate in rape cases under 3% in Pakistan: report

Furthermore, not only these above-mentioned tests that are required to be answered by the authorities but also the certain other questions: the question of using the discretion by a court—is the judge medically able to decide for whom and for whom not the chemical castration would be an appropriate punishment?

The question of the mode and manner of its execution. Then the common sense question of its physical, psychological, philosophical, social, and medical consequences—including the side effects of the procedure. These all questions must be answered first before the implementation of chemical castration as a punishment. Since it an axiomatic quote, it will be of no use to cry over spilled milk.   

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