CUT IT OUT: Chemical Castration to Combat Recidivism among Sex Offenders

[Trigger Warning]

His grimy callous hands roamed my body, feeling, squeezing and marking it with a permanent sense of shame. They grabbed and prodded, receiving pleasure in the knowledge of indulging in iniquity. As I lay there, trying to disassociate myself from the ‘situation’, I couldn’t help but the question, what did I do to deserve this?

There comes a point in time when statistics pertaining to atrocities against women becomes just another statistic. While the constitution bestows fundamental rights, equality and liberty to women, these rights remain just another desire shrouded in ignorance for many women. According to the NCRB report of 2019, India recorded an average of 87 rape cases daily, registering a 7% rise from 2018, with a total of 4,05,86[1] cases. These alarming figures demand the need to delve into alternate methods to combat the rising figures.


What causes rape?

Myths: Rape myths are propagated by perpetrators or oblique condoners of rape to justify the commission of sexual offences by offenders, basing their pretext on prejudicial and stereotypical notions of an ‘ideal woman’. It aims to excuse sexual aggression and condone victim-shaming creating leeway for predatory men to exploit a woman’s fear of her ‘ruined chastity’, using her silence to resume their carnal acts. Common myths include No means Yes, outgoing or modern women will be more open to the idea of sex if a woman engages in kissing, she’s obligated to provide intercourse to the man because she led him on, sex is a sign of masculinity, men are entitled to sex, short and revealing clothes are an invitation, and so on. With misogynistic thoughts like this looming over society, no female is safe.

Typically, rape is an expression of anger, control, power, toxic masculinity or a need to dominate. It's more violent than it is sexual. When delving into the difference of the psychopathology of sexual offenders as opposed to regular ones, Martin L. Lalumiere[2], stated that there is little reason to believe that rapists differ from other offenders in the prevalence of any mental disorder.


Legislations penalizing rape in India:

The penalization for sexual offences in India is restricted to imprisonment, the death penalty, and rehabilitation/detention (for juveniles).

“Section 376A – resulting in death or persistent vegetative state of the victim. 20 years to life imprisonment, the death penalty.

Section 376AB – Rape of a girl under 12 years of age. 20 years to life imprisonment, the death penalty, and fine to be paid directly to victims’ family to meet medical and rehabilitation expenses.

Section 376B – Rape by husband on wife during separation. 2-7 years of life imprisonment, fine.

Section 376C – Rape by a person in a position of authority, 5-10 years of imprisonment, fine.

Section 376D – Gangrape, 20 years to lifetime imprisonment, fine to meet medical and rehabilitation costs”[3].


Chemical castration and its history:

The usage of hormonal drugs to reduce recidivism of sexual offences is called chemical castration. It involves the administration of anaphrodisiac substances to lower sexual libido, which includes diethylstilbesterol, medroxyprogesterone acetate and cyproterone acetate, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH), and agonists such as leuprolide acetate and goserelin[4]. Testosterone is the primary hormone associated with sexual function and libido. Multiple studies report that violent sexual offenders have higher androgen levels than their non-violent comparison groups and that increased levels of testosterone can result in mood swings, irritability, delusions and impaired judgements[5].

Taking into account the efficacy of chemical castration, according to the Journal of Korean Medical Science, chemical castration undoubtedly reduces sexual interest, performance and recidivism[6].

The first attempt to reduce sexual libido in men can be dated all the way to 1944, followed by Alan Turing (known as the father of modern computation). In 1996 California became the first US state to introduce chemical castration for repeat child molesters with Iowa, Louisiana, Georgia, Montana following suit, and Alabama introducing it in 2019[7].

The Russian parliament in 2011 passed a law permitting a court-ordered forensic psychiatrist to prescribe chemical castration to sex offenders who harm children below 14 years of age. Estonia allows voluntary chemical castration as an alternative to a prison sentence whereas in Poland and Moldova child molesters have to mandatorily undergo the procedure. South Korea in 2011 and Indonesia in 2016 enacted legislation for chemical castration. In Israel, UK, New Zealand all reported individual cases of this procedure to lower the recidivism rates among repeat offenders[8].


Why do we need to introduce chemical castration?

“Ask a man what his greatest fear is about serving jail time, and he will almost inevitably say he fears being raped. What can we deduce from the fact that jail is to men what life is to so many women?”[9] This is the reality we live in. Most women, no matter how careful or protected they think they might be are not completely safe. Women live in constant fear, not just of being raped but of the heavy stigma revolving around rape. The rapist whether habitual or a first-time offender has inflicted a permanent scar. The psychological trauma associated with rape is not reversible. The victim relives that incident over and over again living in constant fear of being subjected to it again. Apart from the daily recurrence of the trauma, family, relatives and the people around her will treat her differently, imposing further restrictions on her. “If it's capable of happening once, what to say it won’t happen again”. We often invalidate the pain and agony suffered by victims on the pretext of violating the human rights of the accused, without realizing that the victim’s human rights have already been deplorably violated and deserves to have some sort of relief knowing it won’t happen again. Chemical castration provides this relief. Chemical castration physiologically reduces the libido thereby reducing aggression, violence and essentially rape, “chemical castration would go a long way in inducing fear in the minds of rapists. “By removing the libido, you are targeting the ego of a man”[10] just like they induce fear in the mind of every woman.

The absence of 100% efficacy is often used to argue against the introduction of additional methods. However, no method can effectively tackle every single possibility that may arise, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to rectify the issue at hand. Lacunae are bound to arise, which should be effectively dealt with because our goal should elevate the standard of living for all. Chemical castration is reversible and won’t result in permanent emasculation and could be offered as an alternative to a prison sentence so that offenders have the option of deciding what they want to undergo. The introduction of chemical castration in our country is therefore imperative to ensure the safety of our women.

[1] PTI, Average 87 rape cases daily, Over 7% rise in crimes against women in 2019: NCRB data, The Wire, 30th Sept. 2020, https://thewire.in/women/average-87-rape-cases-daily-over-7-rise-in-crimes-against-women-in-2019-ncrb-data. [2] Martin L. Lalumiere et al., The causes of rape: Understanding individual differences in male propensity for sexual aggression, 130 (1st edn. APA, 2002). [3] Indian Penal Code 1860, § 376. [4] Kang Su Cho, Chemical Castration for Sexual Offenders: Physicians View, 28(2), JKMS, 171, 2013. [5] Harvard Health Publishing, Testosterone-What it does and doesn’t do, Harvard Medical School, 29th Aug. 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/drugs-and-medications/testosterone--what-it-does-and-doesnt-do. [6] Supra note 4. [7] Angana Chakrabarti, Whats Chemical Castration? - The punishment plans to introduce for sex crimes, The Print, 28th Nov. 2020, https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-chemical-castration-the-punishment-pakistan-plans-to-introduce-for-sex-crimes/552877/. [8] Supra note 7. [9] Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Womens Anger (2018). [10] SCWLA President Mahalakshmi Pavani, Sanya Dhingra, PMO asks Women and Child Ministry to Examine Demand for Chemical Castration of Child Rapists, The Print, 4th May, 2018, https://theprint.in/india/governance/pmo-asks-women-child-ministry-to-examine-chemical-castration-of-child-rapists/55226/.


Submitted by,

Silvia Tomy Simon,

Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.

© 2020 by AmicusX