Castration as deterrent barbaric

No one would disagree with the Supreme Court’s observation that rape of and sexual assaults on infants and children below 10 years are a result of mental perversion. The court has suggested to Parliament to enact a separate law providing for harsher punishment for such offences. It also wants a separate definition of “child” in the context of the offence of rape. Courts are increasingly making suggestions concerning legislation to Parliament. This is not a good trend. The court has done well to state that it is not for it to direct Parliament to legislate on a particular issue in a particular way. But it has given its mind away by stating that it wants harsher punish-ment for child rapes. However, it is for Parliament to decide what laws it should frame. It is not appropriate for courts, which later may have to examine these
laws, to dictate what the law should be.

The issue came up before the court in a petition seeking chemical castration as an additional punishment for child rapists. There has been discussion of such punishment in the past few years. The J S Verma Committee which reviewed the laws relating to sexual crimes had categorically rejected the proposal for chemical castration, as it felt that it amounted to a violation of human rights. Such a punishment is retrograde and uncivilised. Sexual offences result not from high libido and a strong sexual urge but from the urge for power and domination. Castration does not address this problem at all and so is not a solution. In most countries where castration is prescribed for convicted offenders it is voluntary and administered on demand from the convicts. What is sought in India is mandatory castration as a punishment. This has arisen from moral and emotional outrage, which is very valid and justified, but cannot be the basis for law.

More stringent penalties cannot be a deterrent against crimes. It is the certainty of punishment and not its severity that can deter criminals. This has been proved by the increasing incidence of crimes for which penalties have been made more and more harsh. The system has been found to be incapable of handing out the punishment as prescribed now to those involved in crimes. The conviction rate in cases of sexual abuse of children is a dismal 1 per cent. An increase in the severity of punishment cannot change the situation, especially when the stricter punishment does not address the basic reasons for the crime. Effective implementation of existing laws through better prosecution and judicial action is a better option.
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