The pandemic may have halted many of our lives but seems like rapists are still at large and unaffected by it. The recent horrific stories of rape, mutilation, and murder that we heard from Pakistan continue to haunt us even after it has been several days. After widespread protests and outrage, the latest news coming from the country is about Prime Minister Imran Khan talking about the chemical castration of rapists.
Khan’s proposal came after a Pakistani woman was gang-raped in front of her three children by robbers on a highway near Lahore on September 11th, triggering a public outcry and sending shockwaves across the nation. This was just a few days after a 5-year-old girl in southern Pakistan was raped, hit on the head, and set on fire. The two episodes prompted protests and an outpouring of anger in Pakistan, which has a toxic culture surrounding sexual assaults and child abuse, similar to most South Asian countries.
This culture was further highlighted when the lead police officer in the highway gang-rape case went on to blame the woman for driving late at night on an empty road and not checking her fuel.
Pakistanis across the country have been out on the streets in protest of the crime and asking for stricter actions. One of the protests organized by a group called the Aurat March has set forth five demands, including an end to violence, affirmative steps by the government to uphold rights and ensure justice, removal of Lahore Capital City Police Officer Umer Sheikh and any other official who blames the woman, calling for structural and procedural reforms in the laws, and effective and transparent investigation.
The uproar on social media has obviously been louder and more visible in the international circles – as the culture of rape continues to haunt all nations with Liberia in west Africa actually declaring it as a national emergency just a few days back.
But the outrage in Pakistan has also forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to say in an interview to a regional channel that he believes there should be chemical castration of rapists or at least the culprits should be made to forcefully undergo surgery so that they don’t commit sexual crimes in future. “The way there is first degree, second degree, third-degree murder, this [rape] should be graded in the same way, and when there is first degree [rape], castrate them. Operate on them and make them unable to do this,” Khan said in the interview.
Countries like Argentina, Australia, Germany, Poland, Russia, and several states of the US have already legalized the use of chemical castration for sex offenders. Though the rules are quite stringent and applicable in rare cases, this is a great example of a strong deterrent for sexual violence.
But the question remains if Pakistan will ever be able to actually implement such a law (India is still toying with the idea after the 2016 Nirbhaya rape case and there is still no law regarding the same). As reported in Pakistan Today the Prime Minister had approved a draft law and the Law Ministry has been tasked to formalize the new law. However, the process is a long haul and the cloud of patriarchy looms large on such laws, where the wrongdoers are mostly men.
We can only hope that stricter measures like chemical castration for rape are actually implemented in countries like Pakistan and India – where the majority population still chooses to dismiss acts of sexual violence under the garb of “boys will be boys.”
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the world goes by, Pallavi is optimistic to a fault and believes in building her world on her own rather than depending on others to make things right.