Madagascar authorizes chemical castration in cases of child rape

(Antananarivo) Madagascar’s Parliament has adopted a law authorizing chemical and, in some cases, surgical castration of people convicted of raping a minor.

The new legislation has come under fire from international rights groups, but has received support from campaigners who say it is an appropriate deterrent to combat “rape culture”.

The parliament of this island country of 28 million people passed the law on February 2, and the Senate approved it last week. It must now be ratified by the High Constitutional Court and promulgated by President Andry Rajoelina, who first raised the issue in December. It was his government that proposed changing the law.

Justice Minister Landy Mbolatiana Randriamanantenasoa said it was a necessary measure due to increasing cases of child rape. In 2023, 600 cases of rape of minors were recorded, she said, and 133 already in January this year.

“Madagascar is a sovereign country which has the right to modify its laws according to circumstances and in the general interest of the people,” declared Randriamanantenasoa. The current Penal Code has not been sufficient to punish the perpetrators of these crimes. »

Surgical castration “will always be pronounced” for people guilty of rape of a child under 10 years old, according to the text of the law. Cases of rape of children aged 10 to 13 will be punished by surgical or chemical castration. Rape of minors aged 14 to 17 will be punished by chemical castration.

Offenders also now face harsher penalties of up to life in prison.

“We wanted to protect children a lot more. The younger the child, the heavier the punishment,” explained Randriamanantenasoa.

Chemical castration is the use of medications to block hormones and decrease sexual desire. It is usually reversible by stopping the medications. Surgical castration is a permanent procedure.

Several countries and some U.S. states, such as California and Florida, allow chemical castration of certain sex offenders. Surgical castration is much rarer. The use of both is very controversial.

Criticism and support

Madagascar’s new law was criticized by rights organization Amnesty International, which called it “inhumane and degrading treatment” incompatible with the country’s constitutional laws. The law should instead focus on protecting victims, said Nciko wa Nciko, Madagascar advisor to Amnesty International.

“On the island, complaint procedures and trials do not take place anonymously,” he said. “There is a lack of confidence in the Malagasy judicial system, due to opacity and corruption. And reprisals against rape victims are common. However, the law does not combat these factors. »

He added that surgical castration is a problematic criminal punishment if the person who undergoes it is later exonerated of a crime on appeal. He also cast doubt on the ability of medical authorities to carry out these procedures.

But despite the criticism, some Malagasy activists are OK with the law change because nothing else seems to be working.

“There really is a rape culture in Madagascar,” says Jessica Lolonirina Nivoseheno of the group Women Break the Silence, which campaigns against rape and supports victims. “We are normalizing certain cases of sexual violence, while also minimizing the seriousness of these cases. »

“ [La nouvelle loi] is progress, because it constitutes a dissuasive sanction. It could prevent potential attackers from taking action… but only if we, as citizens, are aware of the existence and importance of this new sanction. »

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