I have always believed that justice should be fair, impartial, and humane and that no one should be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. That is why I am appalled and outraged by the recent law passed by Madagascar’s parliament, which authorizes the surgical castration of paedophiles convicted of their crimes.
This law, which was proposed by President Andry Rajoelina last month, and approved by the National Assembly on February 2, stipulates that those found guilty of raping a child under the age of ten will undergo surgical castration and receive a life sentence, while those who rape a child between ten and 13 years old will be chemically castrated and serve 15 to 20 years of forced labour. Minors found guilty of such crimes will be exempt from castration.
This law is nothing but a barbaric and unjust violation of human rights, and a blatant disregard for the principles of international law and ethics. It is a law that is based on vengeance, not justice, and that seeks to inflict more harm, rather than prevent it. It is a law that violates the right to bodily integrity, the right to health, and the right to a fair trial. It is a law that ignores the root causes of paedophilia, and the need for effective prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration of offenders. It is a law that exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of the Madagascar government, which claims to be a democracy, but resorts to medieval and draconian measures to deal with social problems.
Let me be clear: I do not condone or sympathize with paedophiles. I abhor and condemn any form of sexual abuse or exploitation of children, and I believe that those who commit such heinous acts should face the full wrath of the law. However, I also believe that the law should be consistent with the values and norms of a civilized and democratic society and that it should respect the human rights and dignity of all people, even those who have committed crimes. I believe the law should aim to protect, not harm, to rehabilitate, not punish, and to heal, not hurt.
The law passed by Madagascar is not only immoral and unethical but also ineffective and counterproductive. It will not deter paedophiles from committing their crimes, as there is no evidence that castration reduces recidivism rates or sexual impulses. On the contrary, it may increase the risk of violence, as some offenders may resort to killing their victims to avoid being caught and castrated. It may also discourage victims and witnesses from reporting cases of child rape, as they may fear retaliation from the perpetrators or their families, or feel guilty for subjecting them to such a brutal fate.
Furthermore, the law will not address the underlying factors that contribute to paedophilia, such as poverty, illiteracy, lack of awareness, social stigma, mental health issues, and cultural norms that tolerate or condone child marriage, child prostitution, and child pornography. These factors require a comprehensive and holistic approach that involves education, awareness, counselling, therapy, and social support for both victims and offenders, as well as the enforcement of existing laws that criminalize child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Moreover, the law will not ensure justice for the victims of paedophilia, as it will not provide them with adequate compensation, restitution, or redress for the physical, psychological, and emotional harm they have suffered. It will not help them to heal from their trauma, or to rebuild their lives and futures. It will not restore their trust and confidence in the society and the state that failed to protect them. It will not give them a voice or a choice in the matter. It will only subject them to more pain and suffering, as they will have to live with the knowledge that their abusers have been mutilated and tortured in their name.
But, perhaps the most disturbing and dangerous aspect of this law is that it will open the door for more violations of human rights and due process, as it will set a precedent for the use of castration as a form of punishment for other crimes, or even as a tool of political repression and persecution. It will also create a climate of fear and suspicion, as anyone accused of paedophilia, whether rightly or wrongly, will be at the mercy of a mob justice system that does not respect the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, or the right to appeal.
This brings me to the most important question: what about those incidents where the innocent are convicted, how do you give life back to those individuals? How do you restore their dignity, their health, their freedom, and their reputation, after they have been castrated and branded as paedophiles for life? How do you compensate them for the irreparable damage done to their bodies, their minds, their families, and their livelihoods? How do you prevent such miscarriages of justice from happening in the first place, in a country, much like our own Zimbabwe, where the judicial system is plagued by corruption, incompetence, and political interference?
These are the questions that the Madagascar government and parliament should have asked themselves before passing this law. These are the questions that the people of Madagascar should ask themselves before supporting this law. These are the questions that the international community should ask itself before turning a blind eye to this law. We, as Africans, should ask ourselves these questions before accepting this law as a solution to our problems.
We should not allow ourselves to be blinded by anger, hatred, or fear, and to resort to barbarism, in the name of justice. We should not allow ourselves to be deceived by populism, nationalism, or patriotism, and to violate human rights, in the name of sovereignty. We should not allow ourselves to be betrayed by our leaders, who use such laws as a diversion from their own failures and crimes, in the name of development. We should not allow ourselves to be silenced by intimidation, coercion, or manipulation, and to lose our humanity, in the name of peace.
We should stand up for our rights, and the rights of others, even those we despise. We should demand justice, but not at the expense of human dignity. We should seek solutions, but not through violence. We should aspire for a better future, but not through regression. We should remember our past, but not repeat its mistakes.
Madagascar’s new law to castrate paedophiles is a mistake that should be corrected before it is too late. It is a mistake that should be condemned, by all who value human rights and democracy. It is a mistake that should be resisted, by all who care for social justice and humanity.
Kumbirai Thierry Nhamo | WriterFeatured