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  • Writer's pictureRitik Agrawal

A Controversial Move Towards Justice: Castration Laws passed in Madagascar to Address Sexual Violence

Tejal Garg,

Symbiosis Law School, Pune

The use of castration as a punishment for sexual offences such rape, sexual assault, and other types of sexual violence has recently become prevalent in Madagascar. The people of Madagascar have recently introduced castration as a punishment. Many people believe that the castration regulations in Madagascar are among the strictest in the world. The majority of people have this view.

In February of 2024, the Madagascar Parliament passed a bill or law authorising chemical castration and, in certain situations, surgical castration for anyone convicted of the crime of raping a minor. In some cases, this would be useful. This would mean that there are situations and circumstances in which castration is acceptable.[i]  The fact that the High Constitutional Court upheld the same statute on February 23, 2024, meant that it became the harshest castration law in the world while it was in force.  The fact that it breaches the human and international rights of criminally convicted individuals is another reason why the same is drawing so much criticism and worry. People are worried and critical because of this.

The High Constitutional Court of Madagascar demanded surgical castration as a punishment for those involved in child rape in one of its rulings. The court specifically directed the individuals in issue to undergo surgical castration. Additionally, the court determined that in cases where the victim is younger than ten years, the convict should be subject to the law's application in stages rather than all at once. Given thatGiven, that the statute's stated goal is the protection of minors, this result was reached accordingly. The statute itself made a passing allusion to this. The judges and the court will determine the appropriate sentence for victims older than ten years. Ultimately, the decision will be up to the judge or the court, who can exercise their discretion as they see fit. [ii]

Crimes perpetrated against minors (those aged 10 to 13 years) involving sexual assault are now punishable by surgical or chemical castration, according to the new legislation. The new land castration was put into action right away. This latest castration of the land was carried out in accordance with the recently passed legislation. By contrast, a person convicted of rape against a minor (defined as a person aged 14 to 17 years) faces a maximum sentence of life in prison plus the harsh penalty of chemical castration. The reason behind this is that this is seen as an extremely grave violation of the law. This is because the crime of rape is generally considered more heinous than others.  [iii]

In recent years, the country has been deeply troubled by the increasing number of reported occurrences of rape involving children. This led to the consideration of this significant step, which aims to discourage criminal behaviour and reduce the frequency of crimes committed against minors.  According to Minister of Justice Landy Mbolatiana Randimanantenasa, there were 133 cases of rape against minors in January in this year. Additional information provided by Minister Randimanantenasa states that there was an increase of 600 cases of rape against minors in 2023. [iv] 

She added, "Madagascar is a sovereign country that has the right to modify its laws in relation to circumstances and in the general interest of the people." Here is a quote she once said. The existing criminal laws are insufficient to deter individuals who perpetrate these crimes. The Act states that as a punishment for the crime of rape on a child less than ten years old, surgical castration "will always be pronounced" offenders. And Randriamanantenasoa says, "We wanted to protect children much more than we did." The harshness of the punishment is proportional to the child's age.[v]

Amnesty International has spoken out strongly against the law under consideration, denouncing it as an "inhuman and degrading treatment" that goes against the country's constitution. According to Tigere Chagutah, the regional director of Amnesty International, legal castration is "inconsistent with Malagasy constitutional provisions against torture and other forms of ill-treatment, as well as regional and international human rights standards of the international community." This is the statement made by Chagutah. Chagutah gave this statement in answer to an inquiry regarding whether or not legal castration may be considered a violation of these laws. By saying this, Chagutah was drawing attention to the fact that rules of this nature make it unlawful to participate in torture as well as other forms of cruel and unusual punishment.

As stated by Jessica Lolonirina Nivoseheno, who is a part of the Women Break the Silence movement, castration, on the other hand, has the potential to function as a "deterrent" to a "rape culture" on the island. Additionally, castration can prevent rape from occurring. One of the things that could be done on the island is castration, which is possible. She made a remark in which she noted that a significant majority of cases "are settled amicably within the family."

"Rape cases continue to be under-reported, and perpetrators frequently go free due to the victims' and their families' fear of retaliation, stigmatisation, and a lack of trust in the judicial system," Amnesty International claimed in a statement that was released today. "Rape cases continue to be under-reported."[vi] In her role as an advisor for Madagascar at Amnesty International, Ncika wa Nciko stressed the importance of safeguarding victims and brought attention to concerns about possible reprisal against rape survivors. She also expressed concern about the possibility of retaliation against these victims.[vii].  

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