By Shweta Goswami:
Dear Madras High Court,
I take the liberty to tell you that your strongly worded judgment which suggest that the Central government consider castration as an additional form of punishment for child sex abusers shows that you need to supplement your concern for children safety with a research-based understanding of Child Sexual Abuse. Proposing to add castration as a deterrent clause to the existing POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012), exposes that you delivered a presumptive judgement based on the limited understanding that the sex offenders are mainly men. However even if you assumed that castration would deter women sex offenders as well, what about the children who are sex offenders? Would you castrate them too? What about the medical costs that will be incurred in the implementation of the so-called deterrent clause?
“When law is ineffective and incapable of addressing the menace, this court cannot keep its hands folded and remain a silent spectator, unmoved and oblivious of the recent happenings of horrible blood-curdling gang rapes of children in various parts of India,” Justice N. Kirubakaran said in a recent order. He said castration for child rapists would fetch “magical” results in preventing child abuse.
Certainly the court should not remain a silent spectator, but proposing castration for child rapists would also not fetch magical results in preventing child abuse. Child sexual abuse (CSA) is not an out-of-the-box occasional crime, more than 50 percent of the child population has been victim to it. To deal with CSA, we need a spectrum of prevention strategies and swift justice delivery, certainly not an emotionally charged and uninformed recommendation for castration. It’s a known yet unacknowledged fact that CSA incidences take place in familial settings, that most of the time offenders are either relatives or friends, only in 10% cases the offenders are strangers. The crime that takes place within the four walls of the house would still stay immune to your castration clause since sexual violence against children within families remains highly unreported.
Anticipating a reaction to your judgment, you said: “Those activists should first exhibit sympathy with, and support to, the victims of such crimes by visiting and consoling them at the hour of crisis instead of having misplaced sympathy with the perpetrators under the usual banner of ‘human rights violation’. They must remember that ‘human rights’ is not a term restricted to, and reserved only, for offenders.”
Human rights activists are not emotionally overwhelming individuals, we are people who value human life, this value is not limited for the victims only. We work towards ensuring that human dignity does not get violated by either the state or the individuals. You don’t clean stains from a cloth by further staining it, do you? Similarly, we believe that a barbaric crime cannot be prevented by being barbaric in response, but we can certainly be mindful and work towards being proactive instead of reactive in our efforts for violence prevention.