Now, castration for those who rape children. Sounds menacingly medieval.
Justice N. Kirubakaran of the Madras High Court in India said those men who molested or raped children must be castrated. This should be in addition to their prison terms.
Kirubakaran’s suggestion came while he was dismissing a petition filed by a British national charged with sodomising a teenage boy. The Briton had sought to quash proceedings against him in a lower court.
“Traditional laws are not stringent enough to yield any desired positive result. Suggestion of castration looks barbaric, but barbaric crimes should definitely attract barbaric model of punishment. Many may not agree with this. Still, everyone needs to understand the stark reality in society and appreciate the punishment suggested,” Kirubakaran said, according to a report in The Times of India.
While the rate of conviction for sexual offences against children was just 2.4%, crimes against them had risen by 400% between 2008 and 2014, he said.
Kirubakaran felt castration would lead to magical results, check child abuse and, eventually, this horrific evil will disappear. At least from India, if one may add.
The judge expected protests from human rights activists. But, of course, he warned them: “Those activists should first exhibit sympathy and support for the victims of such crimes by visiting and consoling them in the hour of crisis, instead of having misplaced sympathy for the perpetrators. They must remember that ‘human rights’ is not a term restricted to, and reserved only for offenders.”
Understandably, there was a hue and cry over the judge’s view.
A senior advocate of the court, Nalini Chidambaram, said in no uncertain terms that castration would not help check child rape. She wondered how such a punishment could even be thought of when there is no provision for it in the Indian Penal Code.
Author Meena Kandasamy averred that the fear of castration could force an abuser to kill his victim so as not to leave any trace of his misdemeanor.
In fact, this has often been the case with adult rapes where perpetrators, fearing punishment, murder the women they rape.
On the other side of the fence, one has come across men who have been trapped by women for a variety of reasons like scorn, humiliation, disappointment and so on. Here the men are but innocent victims.
Similarly, it is possible that a man may be accused of child molestation when he is entirely guiltless.
Sometimes, a child may just imagine that something horrific is happening to it. I saw this in Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s brilliant 2012 film called The Hunt.
The story is set in a small Danish village around Christmas, and follows a teacher who becomes a target of mass hysteria after being wrongly charged with sexually abusing a child in his kindergarten class.
Lucas, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a member of a close-knit deer-hunting community. He is divorced and is struggling to have a relationship going with his teenage son, who lives with his mother.
But Lucas is loved by the kindergarten children he teaches, and this includes Lara, his best friend, Theo’s daughter.
One day, Lara, drawing on memory of a pornographic picture her older brother showed her, makes a comment which seems to suggest that Lucas had indecently exposed himself to her. Despite Lara’s later denials, Lucas is seen as a villain by his community. His son is publicly ostracised and friendship with Theo breaks.
However, the grave misunderstanding is cleared after several weeks, and Lucas is back at school. But a year later, during a hunting expedition, someone shoots at Lucas, but misses him. After a moment, Lucas finds nobody there. Was the shooter real? Or was Lucas imagining?
In this closing scene of The Hunt, we are made aware that some incidents may be just a figment of one’s imagination. Laura’s was.
So it is quite possible for a child to imagine rape, given the kind of programs it watches these days on television. There is, then, a real danger of a man being falsely implicated.
Be that as it may, in any case, it goes without saying that castration is no way for a modern society to deal with a child rapist. If such a law were to be included in India’s Penal Code, this will only drag us back to the dark ages when an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth were the norm.
But India, calling itself a modern nation, a modern democracy, cannot afford to think on the lines of castrating a man. Much in the same way that capital punishment has seldom deterred capital crime, castration will not stop a child rapist in his tracks.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic, who has worked with The Statesman in Kolkata and The Hindu in Chennai for 35 years. He now writes for the Hindustan Times, the Gulf Times and The Seoul Times.
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