Madagascar is set to castrate child rapists after its parliament passed a controversial law last week.
The Indian Ocean island’s senate approved the law which will allow for chemical, and in certain cases, surgical castration of those found guilty of raping a minor.
It must now be ratified and then signed into law by President Andry Rajoelina, who first raised the issue in December leading to the proposal of the new law.
The move has drawn criticism from international human rights groups, but has also encouraged support from activists in Madagascar who say the law is an appropriate deterrent to curb a “rape culture”.
Justice minister Landy Randriamanantenasoa said it was a necessary move because of an increase in cases of rape against children.
In 2023, 600 cases of the rape of a minor were recorded, she said, and 133 in January this year alone.
Surgical castration – the permanent procedure of removing one’s genitals to stop the production of sex hormones – “will always be pronounced” for those guilty of raping a child under the age of 10, according to the law’s wording.
Cases of rape against children between the ages of 10 and 13 will be punished by surgical or chemical castration (not a form of sterilisation as drugs are used to inhibit hormone production).
The rape of children aged between 14 and 17 will be punished by chemical castration.
Offenders also now face harsher sentences of up to life in prison, as well as castration.
Ms Randriamanantenasoa said: “We wanted to protect children much more. The younger the child, the greater the punishment.”
‘Inhuman and degrading’
However, human rights group Amnesty International denounced the law as “inhuman and degrading” and said it was not in line with the island’s constitutional laws.
One adviser for the group warned of the “lack of confidence” in the country’s justice system due to “opacity and corruption”.
They said since complaints and trials are not carried out anonymously retaliation against rape victims was “frequent”.
The Amnesty adviser added that surgical castration was problematic if anyone who undergoes it is later cleared of a crime on appeal.
They also raised doubts over the capabilities of medical authorities to carry out the procedures.
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‘New law is progress’
Some activists in the country agree with the law as they say nothing else seems to be working.
Jessica Nivoseheno of the Women Break the Silence group, which campaigns against rape and supports victims, said: “There really is a rape culture in Madagascar.
“We are in the process of normalising certain cases of sexual violence, also minimising the seriousness of these cases.
“(The new law) is progress, because it is 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.”
A handful of other countries administer chemical castration for sexual offenders including South Korea and the US.
Surgical castration is rarer, though countries like Nigeria and the Czech Republic implement the procedure under its laws.