Madagascar’s justice minister defended a new bill on Friday to castrate child rapists, with the measure deemed “cruel, inhuman and degrading” by Amnesty International.
The upper house Senate approved the measure permitting chemical and surgical castration on Wednesday after it had been voted through by the National Assembly earlier this month.
Amnesty International urged Antananarivo to drop the proposed law, saying it would not resolve the problem of paedophilia.
But Justice Minister Landy Mbolatiana Randriamanantenasoa told AFP that the large Indian Ocean island “is a sovereign country that has every right to amend its laws”.
“Faced with the resurgence of rape, we had to act,” she added, saying there were 600 rapes of minors recorded last year.
Up till now the minimum sentence for child rape was five years’ imprisonment, the minister added.
The bill, seen by AFP, introduces a penalty of surgical castration for “perpetrators of rape committed on a child under the age of 10”.
It allows “chemical or surgical” castration for rapists of children aged between 10 and 13 and chemical castration for rapists of minors aged between 13 and 18.
The measure must still be validated by the High Constitutional Court before President Andry Rajoelina can sign it into law.
Amnesty’s regional director Tigere Chagutah said legal castration was “inconsistent with Malagasy constitutional provisions against torture and other ill-treatment, as well as regional and international human rights standards.”
But Jessica Lolonirina Nivoseheno, of the Women Break the Silence movement, said castration could be a “deterrent” to a “rape culture” on the island, where many cases “are settled amicably within the family”.
Amnesty said, “rape cases remain under-reported, and perpetrators often go free due to the victims’ and their families’ fear of retaliation, stigmatisation, and a lack of trust in the judicial system.”
Its Madagascar adviser Nciko wa Nciko criticised the law for failing to “focus on the victims”.
“Castration causes serious and irreversible harm. And we can have cases where an individual is found guilty and the courts (then) go back on the verdict and clear his name”, he told AFP.
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