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Chemical Castration For Rapists: PM Khan’s Comments Are Ill-Informed At Best

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After days of silence on the gang-rape of a woman on Lahore motorway that shook the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed the public hangings and chemical castration of rapists to curb sexual violence in Pakistan.

While talking about the gang-rape of a woman in front of her children last week, PM Imran said: “They [rapists] should be given exemplary punishments. In my opinion, they should be hanged at the chowk [intersection].”

However, experts and rights activists tend to disagree with what the prime minister has presented as the solution to the problem. Dr Nida Kirmani, who is a sociologist, responded that the announcement by the PM ‘misses the point that all men are socialised to a greater or lesser extent to be capable of such acts’.

“The idea that hanging or castrating a rapist is the solution makes it seem as if those who commit these crimes are monsters who are physically unable to control their urges,” she tweeted.

Legal expert Reema Omer also disagreed with the statement. She said: “It’s based on a poor understanding of what motivates rape; it wrongly focuses on punishment instead of ensuring certainty in conviction, and it’s against rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Low conviction rate and rape culture:

Instead of coming up with stopgap solutions to placate the public, the government needs to address the root causes of sexual violence. The patriarchal mindset prevalent in Pakistan society reduces women’s consent to that of a sexual object and also dehumanises them– a major reason that often leads to rape.

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Similar observations were made by a committee formed by the Indian government in the aftermath of the Delhi bus rape in 2012. It had said: ‘Chemical castration fails to treat the social foundations of rape which is about power and sexually deviant behaviour.”

Moreover, a harsher sentence could be effective in case of isolated incidents, but in Pakistan, rape is embedded in its male-dominated culture that can not be addressed until structural reforms are made at all levels.

For instance, the conviction rate in rape cases is less than 5 per cent.

Our conviction rate for rape is less than 5% (a large number of cases aren’t reported, so conviction rate actually even lower)

Legal expert Osama Malik told the AFP news agency the rape conviction rate can be as low as 2 per cent. “This drops even lower in cases where a minor has been raped. That is one of the reasons that rape is rarely reported,” said Malik.

He also blamed social stigma attached to sex crimes and the ‘abhorrently misogynistic attitude’ of many police officials for the underreporting of rape cases. Activist Farzana Bari also blames anti-woman state policies and a patriarchal mindset for rape culture.

So instead of choosing to strengthen the legal and prosecution system so that more cases could be unearthed and punishments can be awarded, the government has decided to skip the entire process and has gone ahead with the decision to give harsher punishments.

‘Shocking Rape myths’:

A 2010 study titled ‘Comparative Analysis of Attitudes and Perceptions about Rape Among Male and Female University Students’ pointed out multiple problematic rape myths prevalent in educated segments of society. It termed the results ‘shocking against the backdrop of young age and high educational background of our respondents’.

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Some of the findings of the study are listed here: “Over 63% of males and 20% of females believed that if a woman has strong character, no one could rape her; over 24% of respondents believed that rape is committed by strangers; Two-thirds of respondents believed that there can be no rape in a marital relationship; about 25% of students also believed that a raped
woman is not worthy of becoming another man’s wife.”

No matter how harsher the sentences are, the issues pointed out by the study can not be addressed unless the government takes this issue seriously and considerably rape a societal problem instead of an act perpetrated by deranged individuals.

‘No easy way out’

In the light of the facts and figures mentioned in this report and the high prevalence of rape, a mere announcement of public hanging and chemical castration is not a solution. The government will have to take elaborate measures and reform the system so that the stigma that surrounds the rape survivors can be eradicated, so more conviction can be brought in.

Similarly, the government will not be able to ensure an end to rapes in society if it is going to take measures that are only aimed at placating the angry public. In order to address this issue, it will have a start a debate on the issue and take all segments of society on board, especially the women representatives.

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Naya Daur