Sex offenders convicted of multiple rapes in Pakistan could face chemical castration after parliament passed a new legislation that aims to speed up convictions and impose tougher sentences.
The bill is a response to a public outcry against a recent spike in incidents of rape of women and children in the country and growing demands for effectively curbing the crime.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2021 bill was passed along with 33 other bills by the joint session of parliament on Wednesday. It seeks to amend the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the Dawn newspaper reported.
"Chemical castration is a process duly notified by rules framed by the prime minister, whereby a person is rendered incapable of performing sexual intercourse for any period of his life, as may be determined by the court through administration of drugs which shall be conducted through a notified medical board," according to the bill.
Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed protested over the bill and termed it un-Islamic and against Sharia.
He said a rapist should be hanged publicly, but there was no mention of castration in Sharia.
Chemical castration is the use of drugs to reduce sexual activity. It is a legal form of punishment in countries including South Korea, Poland, the Czech Republic and in some states in the US, according to media reports.
What is chemical castration?
Chemical castration reduces offenders’ testosterone levels and the sex drive is lowered with the help of drugs.
According to Jodi O’ Brien, author of Encyclopaedia of Gender and Society, throughout history, chemical castration has had cultural, moral and punitive significance. Merill D Smith observes in Encyclopaedia of Rape that castration was an “eye-to-eye style punishment” in Rome and had historically been used in India as a sentence for rape and adultery and also notes that castration in the religious context is “fairly common.”
The rationale behind using castration as punishment for sex offenders in the contemporary context, according to Smith is that reduced testosterone would lead to reduced libido and therefore reduced ‘deviant sexual activity'.
In an interview last year, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said though he believes that rapists should be hanged publicly, it would not be an internationally accepted process and hence Pakistan was considering chemical castration. "I think he (the rapist) should be hanged publicly. Rapists and child molesters should have public hangings. You do not know the real statistics as well, because it's under-reported. People do not report it due to being scared or ashamed, women are ashamed, no one wants to tell," Imran Khan had said in 2020, as reported by CNN.
Anti-rape ordinance 2020
In 2020, Pakistani president Arif Alvi had signed a new anti-rape measure aiming to speed up convictions and toughen sentences.
The ordinance will create a national sex offenders register, protect the identity of victims and allow the chemical castration of some offenders.
Special fast-track courts will hear rape cases and will be expected to reach a verdict within four months.
Pakistan joins other countries
Chemical castration, carried out by the use of drugs, is practised in Poland, South Korea, the Czech Republic and some states in the United States.
In 1996, California became the first US state to use it as punishment for repeat child molesters as a condition for parole. Since then it has been implemented in at least seven other states including Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana and Montana.
Russia in 2011 approved of a law by which a court-requested forensic psychiatrist would prescribe chemical castration to those who have harmed children below the age of 14.
In Indonesia, as well, a presidential regulation in 2016 allowed chemical castration as a punishment for child sex offenders.