Madagascar’s Parliament has recently approved a law that permits the chemical and, in certain cases, surgical castration of individuals found guilty of raping minors. The move has drawn criticism from international rights groups while receiving support from activists within the country who believe it will serve as an effective deterrent against a prevalent “rape culture.” The law, passed on February 2 and subsequently approved by the Senate, is now awaiting ratification by the High Constitutional Court and the signature of the President, who initially raised the issue in December.
Justice Minister Landy Mbolatiana Randriamanantenasoa argues that the law is necessary due to a surge in child rape cases. In 2023 alone, 600 instances of child rape were recorded, with 133 cases reported in January this year. Randriamanantenasoa asserts that the current penal code has proven insufficient in curbing such offenses. The law specifies that surgical castration will be imposed on those found guilty of raping a child under the age of 10, while cases involving children aged 10 to 13 will be subject to either surgical or chemical castration. Chemical castration will be the punishment for the rape of minors aged between 14 and 17. Additionally, offenders now face harsher sentences of up to life imprisonment, in addition to castration.
While several countries, including California and Florida, allow for chemical castration as a punishment for certain sex offenders, the use of surgical castration is much less common. Amnesty International has criticized Madagascar’s new law, deeming it “inhuman and degrading treatment” that contradicts the country’s constitutional laws. Nciko wa Nciko, an advisor for Madagascar at Amnesty, argues that the focus should be on protecting victims rather than implementing such measures. He highlights the lack of anonymity in complaint procedures and trials on the island, as well as the lack of confidence in the Malagasy criminal justice system due to corruption and opacity. Nciko also raises concerns about the potential complications if someone who has undergone castration is later exonerated on appeal. Furthermore, doubts have been raised regarding the medical authorities’ capacity to carry out these procedures.
Despite the criticism, some activists in Madagascar support the law, as they believe it is a necessary step to address the prevalent rape culture. Jessica Lolonirina Nivoseheno, from the Women Break the Silence group, which advocates against rape and supports victims, acknowledges the normalization and trivialization of sexual violence in the country. She sees the new law as progress, emphasizing its potential as a deterrent if citizens are aware of its existence and significance.