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Judge calls for chemical castration

Sparks debate on suitable punishment for sex offenders

  • Rita Joseph, New Delhi
  • India
  • February 20, 2012
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A Delhi court judge caused a storm on Friday when she suggested castration as the most appropriate punishment for pedophiles and serial sex offenders.

“Castration is the most befitting sentence which can be imposed on any pedophile or serial offender but the hands of this court are tied as the law does not provide for it,” additional sessions judge Kamini Lau said while sentencing a man for kidnapping and raping his niece.

She suggested lawmakers explore an “alternative to conventional sentencing.”

Many critics accused her of being too harsh.

Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said stringent punishment should be awarded for this sort of crime but maiming a person is “not correct.”

He said this form of punishment “is highly draconian and incompatible with our constitutional principles.”

A few others, however, felt chemical castration would prove a deterrent.

Swami Agnivesh, head of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front, backed the judge, saying it would be a “very, very effective solution and that the Law Commission should take steps to codify this into law.”

He said pedophiles need to be taught a lesson, and the message should be loud and clear.

“Because there is no exemplary punishment for such a reprehensible act, such cases are on the rise. Most cases go unreported or punished lightly,” he said, adding, “however action of this kind should only be resorted to  in extreme cases.”

Indian law gives only jail terms for sexual offenders. While countries such as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany offer “chemical castration” as punishment, says Sabina Peters, a law professor.

Meanwhile, psychiatrist Anita Hingorani says more must also be done to prevent abuse rather than just focusing on punishing an offender.

Most child molestation cases take place at home and are often hushed up, she said, adding that attitudes need to change and that victims and other family members need to be encouraged to speak out and report such abuses.
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