New Delhi: Should those accused of child sex be castrated? That is the question the Supreme Court summoned and asked the Attorney General on Monday morning. The Supreme Court’s question came while hearing a petition filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyer’s Association which demanded that those accused of child sex be castrated.
The Supreme Court directed the Attorney General to check with the Centre on its stand regarding the same.
The Supreme Court women lawyer’s association had filed a PIL in the court seeking a direction to the Centre to consider imposing “castration as an additional punishment for child sex abusers and child rapists”. The court is expected to hear the PIL filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) after January 4, when it reopens after the winter break.
“Only castration can be an effective deterrent. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act brought in specially to combat such offences in 2012 has failed to prevent sexual assault on minors as the punishments provided therein are nothing different than general punishment provided in the Indian Penal Code,” the plea filed by SCWLA General Secretary Prerna Kumari said.
The PIL came two months after the Madras High Court asked the Centre to consider castration as a punishment for those who rape children in order to discourage sexual assaults on minors.
Justice N Kirubakaran of the court had also acknowledged that its recommendation could seem “barbaric, retrograde, stone-aged and inhuman,” but said traditional laws were not enough to cope such crimes.
Quoting National Crime Records Bureau figures, the PIL said a child is abused every 30 minutes in India. The country witnessed a 151 per cent increase in child rapes in five years. (5,484 in 2009 to 13,766 in 2014).
“The Madras High Court judgment itself speaks that between the year 2012 and 2014, the number of these crimes had increased from 38,172 to 89,423 i.e. more than the double and this is alarming,” the petition said.
The SCWLA said the PIL was triggered by the recent shocking incident in Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh where a 28-day-old baby girl was raped on December 6, 2015. It also cited gang rape of two minors in Delhi in the second week of October.
“This court is sure that additional punishment of castration of child rapists would fetch magical results in preventing and containing child abuses,” the Madras HC had said.
The judge had noted that several countries like the US, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Russia, New Zealand and Argentina have introduced castration to deal with child sex offenders.
The fact that the Centre has not challenged the Madras HC order yet in the Supreme Court meant that the Union government was not averse to the idea.
The Madras HC was not the first to demand castration.
In 2011, Delhi sessions court judge Kamini Lau – while suggesting chemical castration as punishment for rape – had called for a nationwide debate on the issue.
The judge had suggested the measure as an alternative sentence to imprisonment.
But in 2013, the Justice Verma Committee rejected the demand for castration, noting the punishment “fails to treat the social foundations of rape”.
Justice Verma also said it would be unconstitutional and inconsistent with human rights treaties to expose citizens to the potentially dangerous medical side effects of castration without their consent.
The PIL has named the Union home ministry and the Ministry of Women and Child Development as respondents.
Castration is any action, whether surgical or chemical, by which the testicles of a male become defunct.
Surgical castration is bilateral orchiectomy (removal of both testes), and the chemical method uses pharmaceutical drugs to deactivate the testes.
Castration causes sterilisation (i.e., prevents men from reproducing); it also greatly reduces the production of certain hormones, such as testosterone.