Public hangings and castration

After days of silence on the gang rape of a woman on the Lahore motorway, Prime Minister Imran Khan suggested public hanging and chemical castration for rapists to curb sexual violence. This has ignited a debate on what constitutes effective anti-rape legislation.

The prime minister said he believes rapists should be given an exemplary punishment and hanged at public squares. However, he said that would be problematic as it was not internationally acceptable and would harm the nation’s image. The prime minister seems to have missed that point regarding what urges men to commit such despicable incidents.

The idea that hanging or castrating a rapist is the solution gives an impression that the culprits are those unable to curb their sexual urges but are rather socialized to commit such acts. The nation is enraged by the incident and the prime minister has played fiddle but it seems more than an act to divert attention.

The statement is also problematic as it focuses on the punishment rather than the causes of rape. It will pose huge legal and human rights challenges and could be deemed unconstitutional. It could be a costly initiative as the state would bear the cost of castration. This is an easy solution rather than effective anti-rape legislation and prevention.

Instead of coming with stopgap solutions to placate the public, the government needs to address the root cause of rape and sexual violence. This is the result of a patriarchal mindset which sexually objectifies a woman and cannot understand the meaning of consent. In 2012, India was shaken by the gang rape of a woman on a moving bus in New Delhi but chemical castration failed to treat the social foundation of rape. The Indian capital still reports one rape incident every 15 minutes.

It must also be noted that conviction rate in rape cases is abysmal low – less than 5 percent. The clogged judicial system needs reformation and should expedite such cases. Often shoddy police investigation turns the case in the favour of the rapist and the victim is forced to reconcile with them. There should be harsher sentences and swift justice in sexual violence cases.

Rape is now embedded in our male-dominated society and cannot be addressed until there are effective reforms in the legal and procedural levels that the government seems to have skipped. We also need to end the social stigma attached to rape and more importantly realise that rape is a societal problem rather than an act of deranged individuals. There is no easy way out and the government will not be able to eradicate the menace by merely placating the public but rather requires elaborate measures and reform the system.

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