Madagascar's Parliament has approved a law allowing for chemical and surgical castration of individuals convicted of raping minors. International human rights organizations have criticized the decision, while local activists have expressed their support, considering it a necessary deterrent to address the prevalent "rape culture."
The law, passed in February and approved by the Senate, awaits ratification by the High Constitutional Court and the President's signature. The Justice Minister cited a surge in child rape cases as the impetus for the law, which imposes harsher penalties, including life imprisonment, alongside castration for offenders.
"We aimed to provide stronger protection for children. The younger the child, the harsher the penalty," Randriamanantenasoa stated.
Chemical castration involves the use of drugs to suppress hormones and reduce sexual desire and is generally reversible by discontinuing the medication. Surgical castration is a permanent procedure.
While some countries and U.S. states, such as California and Florida, permit chemical castration for certain sex offenders, the use of surgical castration as a punishment is much less common and contentious.
Amnesty International criticized Madagascar's new law as "inhuman and degrading treatment" that contradicts the country's constitutional laws. Nciko wa Nciko, an advisor for Madagascar at Amnesty, argued that the law should prioritize protecting victims.
He also raised concerns about the potential problems associated with surgical castration as a criminal sentence, particularly if an individual later cleared of a crime underwent the procedure. He also questioned the capacity of medical authorities to carry out the procedures.
Despite the criticism, some activists in Madagascar support the law change, as they believe that nothing else has been effective in addressing the prevalent rape culture in the country.
Jessica Lolonirina Nivoseheno of the Women Break the Silence group, which advocates against rape and supports victims, acknowledged, "There really is a rape culture in Madagascar. We are in the process of normalizing certain cases of sexual violence, also minimizing the seriousness of these cases."
She added, "The new law represents progress as a deterrent punishment. This could prevent potential attackers from taking action, but only if we, as citizens, are aware of the existence and importance of this new penalty."