What You Need to Know:
Madagascar approved a bill to introduce harsher sentences of child rapists on Friday, including the surgical castration of offenders whose victims were 10 or younger. Offenders with victims between 10 and 13 face chemical or surgical castration, while offenders with victims between 14 and 17 face chemical castration.
The bill must still be brought before the High Constitutional Court of Madagascar before being fully brought into effect.
President Andry Rajoelina’s party – the Young Malagasies Determined – proposed the bill late last year after the nation witnessed a sharp spike in child rapes. In the past month of January, there has already been 133 reported child rapes in the country.
Madagascar’s Justice Minister, Landy Mbolatiana Randriamanantenasoa, while speaking to AP claimed, “We wanted to protect children much more. The younger the child, the greater the punishment.”
However, rights groups such as Amnesty International claim that a ‘survivor-centered approach’ is needed instead. This is due to Madagascar’s alleged ‘rape culture’ which prevents many victims from going to the police, meaning the island nation’s rape statistics are likely much higher than what official statistics let on. furthermore, incestuous rape is not uncommon, which further prevents victims from accessing police services.
Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, has labeled the proposed law as ‘cruel’ claiming that, “Implementing chemical and surgical castration, which constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as a punishment for those found guilty of raping minors is inconsistent with Malagasy constitutional provisions against torture and other ill-treatment, as well as regional and international human rights standards.”
So, What Now?:
Although some supporters of the proposed bill hail it as a landmark step in tackling child abuse in the country, some critics are worried about offenders who undergo surgical castration but are then later found innocent.
During surgical castration, the testicles are removed to prevent the production of sex hormones, making the procedure irreversible. Chemical castration, or the taking of medications which limit sex hormone production is normally reversible, but some studies have shown that the medications can affect bone density even after the cessation of treatment.