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Chemical castration for rapists in India?
Publication Date : 01-01-2013
India's ruling Congress party is considering chemical castration for some convicted rapists, a controversial punishment where drugs are used to suppress sexual urges, as Indians clamour for more robust rape and sexual harassment laws.
With public anger raging after the death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was gang raped and thrown off a moving bus in Delhi, the government is scrambling to respond.
Congress leaders said the party's draft Bill, which also suggests extending the jail sentence for rape up to 30 years, will be sent this week to a special committee of jurists set up after the December 16 gang-rape case to look into strengthening India's rape laws.
In India, the maximum punishment for rape is life imprisonment, but convicts are eligible for parole after 14 years, which the Congress wants extended to 30 years. Many are now calling for the death penalty for rapists.
But Congress party leaders say chemical castration could be more effective.
In the US, states such as California, Florida and Louisiana mete out chemical castration as punishment for child molestation. In 2009, Poland passed a law making chemical castration mandatory for paedophiles in some cases.
However, the Congress Party is suggesting using it not just for paedophiles but for all rape categories, in the most violent cases.
India has seen almost daily street protests following the brutal gang rape of the student, who died in a Singapore hospital on Saturday from her injuries.
The three-member committee of jurists, which will make recommendations to the government, has already received more than 6,100 e-mails with suggestions from the public, social organisations and experts.
Demands include making rape a non-bailable offence, introducing fast-track courts in all rape cases and enhancing punishment in all categories of sexual assault.
"We do require a deterrent so harsh that people don't even think about committing rape. The death penalty is a must and chemical castration is an option," said Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand who is also sending her suggestions to the committee.
"Whenever you have such an episode, you realise there is so much wrong," she added.
The six accused in the Delhi gang rape also face murder charges, where the maximum sentence is the death penalty.
The victim's family will not rest till her killers are hanged, her brother told The Indian Express newspaper. "The fight has just begun. We want all the accused hanged, and we will fight for that, till the end," he said.
There is widespread agreement among Indians that police and the courts are slow to act and jail terms are no deterrent.
Women are routinely exposed to many indignities, with rape among the fastest growing crimes. In India, 24,206 rapes were reported in 2011, up from 21,397 cases in 2009.
Rape trials can take anything from three to seven years.
"Sentencing has to be quick and implemented quickly," said Meenakshi Lekhi, a lawyer and social activist.