By Dheera Gurnani:
The recent case of a 23 year old photo journalist being gang raped in a safe city like Mumbai created quite a stir in the media and the nation alike. It also bought back the memories of another fateful rape case in Delhi. Discussions, arguments and opinions filled every corridor and every living room. Debates on inadequate safety measures to comparison between Mumbai and Delhi on basis of crime against women appeared on front pages and prime time debates. With the arrest of all the 5 accused, the topic shifted to “the most apt punishment” for the rapist for committing such a heinous crime. Chemical castration was one of the favorite. I am against it.
I am a woman living in Mumbai who aspires to be a journalist. After this case, I thought for a moment about my safety and my future. Fear gripped me and I was full of self-doubt. I questioned my choice of career. Answers unraveled in front of me as time passed. Being a woman is not a crime, be alert and safe (still the danger looms large) and your profession hardly affects your chance of being raped. But all this made me think deep about rape and the punishment for the same.
Chemical castration means “the administration of medication designed to reduce libido and sexual activity” unlike the popular belief of removing testicles or sterilization. Many think it is the ideal retribution for a sex offender but a better understanding of rape reveals something else. Rape is not only sexual in nature. It is more than ‘sex without consent’. It is about anger, power and violence. It is less physical and more psychological, its repercussions are associated with trauma and self-doubt, not revenge. Castration does not counter the false belief, the illusion that a man is superior to a woman. It does nothing to change the mentality that promotes objectification of women. This would just remove the sexual part of the offence and not the deep psychological beliefs that need to be addressed.
One of the arguments which favor castration is that it will create fear in the mind of the potential rapist and will help reduce the crime rate. But unfortunately, this notion does not stand true. One does not commit a crime after weighing the sentence it will bring along. Rather, in some cases, it will motivate the rapist to kill the victim to eliminate the chances of being caught. If not killed, the victim will be threatened and pressurized to stay silent. Hence reducing the number of cases reported, which already is very low.
Even from a rational perspective, chemical castration is not feasible. The process requires administering the drug after regular intervals. Considering India, where basic health care for every Indian is still a distant dream, spending a fortune on a punitive punishment does not make sense. To add to this, the efficiency of chemical castration is doubted. It does not always help in reducing a man’s sexual desires, leading to a waste of effort, resources and purpose.
I know there is anger. You, me and every concerned citizen is angry but this is not the solution. An eye for an eye will make the world blind. One may say, what is the solution, then? The solution lies in teaching every male to respect their female counterparts. It lies in removing the growing disparity between a man’s’ standing in the society as compared to a woman. It lies in ending the culture of objectifying women in any manner. It lies in gender sensitization, it lies within all of us. It is a long process and perhaps will take time but that’s the only permanent solution to this problem.