By: Sajad Jatoi
Morals and ethics are declining; corruption of them continues to constantly ravage societies all over the world. Here, in our country, with each passing day we seem to be transcending moral and ethical lines.
Despite our hallow claims of being a civilised nation, general malaises such as sexual harassment and abuse and sectarian violence are becoming prevalent. Children, women and trans genders are no longer safe. They have become the most vulnerable class. They continue to be sexually harassed and assaulted at will. What is interesting is that often the perpetrators of such crimes easily evade the law and appear to be committing them with impunity and without any fear of bearing the consequences.
Take, for example, the case of Zainab of Kasur. She was just seven when she was abducted while she was on the way to her Quran recital class. Subsequently, she was raped and murdered and her body dumped on a heap of garbage. What was her crime that she had to pay such a heavy price? Was not that man who raped and murdered her a human being?
This is not the only one case of that nature. Our society is teeming with such cases. For example, in another case a year earlier, a minor girl named Zara Mangi was raped and murdered near Larkana. A few months before the case of Zara, another minor girl named Farishta went missing in Islamabad and a few days later her dead body was found. It came out that she too was raped before being murdered.
Though these cases have sparked outrage from time to time; they have made public come out on streets, however, they have not been able to prevent them from taking place.
While people were still busy banishing the unpleasant memory of those cases, the Lahore Motorway incident shook the whole country. That chilling, shocking and terrifying incident took place on Lahore Gujranwala motorway on the night of 9th September. The woman was travelling with her children late at night when her car broke down or run out of petrol. She sought help, but instead of helping her two brutal and habitual criminals robbed and raped her in front of her children.
This incident, like others in the recent past, has fuelled outrage. The public is calling for public hangings of the offenders, while the government is pondering over introducing the laws that would serve as deterrent to rapes and child sexual abuses.
It is a satisfying thing that the government is mulling over ratifying bills in the parliament that are hoped to serve as a deterrent. They are thinking of tabling the proposal to enact castration of sex offenders, especially of paedophiles and rapists.
This move of the government deserves appreciation as it reveals the government’s willingness to change status quo. But here a question arises: will passing of laws such as that of castrating the criminals prove successful in serving as a tool to deter such crimes? Will the experience with such new laws be successful? Not quite sure. While these laws are worthy of approval, they have their drawbacks too.
In the case of Zainab, the culprit was brought to account; he was hanged. Almost, the entire nation is aware of that case. But even after the culprit was hanged, such crimes have not ceased to exist. They still continue to take place without any let-up. While taking that example into consideration, one is not sure as to how far the castration of rapists and paedophiles will go in deterring the crime.
The need for such laws has arisen totally because of the negligence on part of the law-enforcement agencies. This appears obvious through the fact that one of the offenders of motorway incident is a ‘habitual offender’ who was, a few years ago, convicted for the same crime. It comes out now that he was released after the two parties reached a compromise. Why is there a place for such crimes?
With already defective law-enforcement agencies, there are various reasons why castration of sexual offenders might not work. Firstly, the trouble with such laws is that: how will they be communicated to an illiterate and ordinary man? Since most of the culprits are uneducated, how are they to know about such laws. This is not a difficult problem; people would be aware of it once the law is implemented and few criminals are punished. Nonetheless, it might not serve as a successful deterrent. Because this not a new thing, as it has been experimented with in other countries such as Indonesia and Ukraine where it has not worked as a successful deterrent.
Secondly, the reason why it cannot work is because chemical and surgical castration is implemented just to dampen the sexual desire of offenders and castration cannot dampen it hundred percent. Medical sciences suggest that castrated offenders can have an erection even after castration. Their sexual drive is diminished but it is not altogether eliminated. Thus, they are capable of intercourse even after castration.
While tabling the proposals for such laws, the above mentioned things must be taken into consideration. The government should be clear about what should be the ultimate punishment for offenders who commit offence even after being castrated.
Along with the new laws, there is a desperate need for changes in moralities. It would be advocated that everyone has the right to self-respect. Their respect and honour must be protected. Moreover, people with criminal tendencies must be informed on irrespective of one’s relation to them.
In addition, in order to reduce rape crimes and sex offences, there should be campaigns at both regional and national levels in which both the government and the public must play their respective parts. Potential offenders must be indoctrinated to understand what sexual assault means to the victim; what stigma it carries to be a sexually abused victim; and what impacts it leaves on the life of the victim.