Divide over Madagascar’s new castration law for rapists

Key Points
  • Madagascar has passed a new law that allows chemical and surgical castration of child rapists.
  • The law has been met with mixed reaction from rights groups and advocates, with some saying it’s “inhumane”.
  • Chemical castration uses drugs to block hormones and decrease sexual desire. Surgical castration is permanent.
Madagascar’s parliament has passed a law allowing for the chemical and, in some cases, surgical castration of those found guilty of the rape of a minor.
The move prompted criticism from international rights groups, but also found support from activists in the country who say it is an appropriate deterrent to curb a “rape culture”.
The Indian Ocean island’s parliament passed the law on 2 February and the Senate, the upper house, approved it last week.

It must now be ratified by the High Constitutional Court and signed into law by President Andry Rajoelina, who first raised the issue in December. His government proposed the law change.

People watch on as judges address a courtroom.

The law must now be ratified by the High Constitutional Court. Source: Getty / Xinhua News Agency

Justice Minister Landy Mbolatiana Randriamanantenasoa said it is 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.

“Madagascar is a sovereign country which has the right to modify its laws in relation to circumstances and in the general interest of the people,” Randriamanantenasoa said.
“The current penal code has not been enough to curb the perpetrators of these offences.”
Surgical castration “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. The rape of minors 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.

“We wanted to protect children much more. The younger the child, the greater the punishment,” Ms Randriamanantenasoa said.

Chemical castration is the use of drugs to block hormones and decrease sexual desire. It is generally reversible by stopping the drugs. Surgical castration is a permanent procedure.
Several countries and some US states – including California and Florida – allow for chemical castration for some sex offenders. Surgical castration as a punishment is much rarer. The use of both is highly contentious.
Madagascar’s new law has been criticised by rights group Amnesty International as “inhuman and degrading treatment” that is inconsistent with the country’s constitutional laws.
The law should instead focus on protecting victims, said Nciko wa Nciko, an adviser for Madagascar at Amnesty.
“On the island, complaint procedures and trials are not carried out anonymously,” he said.
“There is a lack of confidence in the Malagasy criminal justice system, due to opacity and corruption. And reprisals against rape victims are frequent. However, the law does not combat these factors.”
He added that surgical castration is a problematic criminal sentence if anyone who undergoes it is later exonerated of a crime on appeal.
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