Â ….Some people have been indicted for defilement not once, but as second or third offenders
GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA
WITH the scourge of child defilement reaching endemic levels, people are now making varied suggestions and counter-suggestions on how to stop the moral decay.
Things have got to a point where people are proposing castration as a way of protecting children against sexually perverted minds.
Apparently, there is a feeling that custodial sentence for sex crimes against children is not deterrent enough, although the Penal Code allows for a minimum jail sentence of 15 years for people convicted of defilement.
The apparent rise in cases of defilement is creating an impression that perpetrators of sexual violence are not getting dissuaded by the punishment being meted out against offenders.
Though lots of people may go to jail for child defilement or rape, serial sex offenders are on the loose as though unmoved by what is going on.
Some people have been indicted for child defilement not just once, but as second or third offenders, thus raising concern as to what should be done to make our communities free from sexually perverted minds.
Propelled by the high levels of child defilement and spates of sexual violence against women, suggestions have been made in the media on the need to suppress the libido of serial sex offenders and possibly prevent the crime.
Last June, I personally received a phone call from two marketeers at Chisokone Market in Kitwe – Grace Katachi and Eunice Namwawa – who were threatening to act outside the law to stop defilement in their area.
The women were provoked by an incident in Nchelengeâ€™s Kasongolika area where an 18- months-old baby perished as it was being sexually molested by a 21-year-old man.
During a telephone conversation, I cautioned the women not to take that route because it is unlawful and they would be arrested if they did.
Three months later, suggestions for â€œchemical castrationâ€ of serial sex offenders have come up from people who are concerned with the escalation of sexual violence against children.
Castration could either be surgical or chemical, though the latter is preferred in countries in America and parts of Europe where it is used as a workable solution to stifle the sex drive of serial rapists/defilers.
In simple terms, chemical castration is the use of hormone suppressing drugs to suppress the sex drive of males and this irreversible medical procedure may render one impotent.
Chemical castration has been used in a number of countries to punish sexual crimes against children. The idea behind it is to engineer libido loss in unabashed sex offenders.
According to CNN, chemical castration is used in various forms, either forcibly as a sentence or as a way for offenders to reduce their jail time in several countries including Argentina, Australia, Estonia, Israel, Moldova, New Zealand, Poland and Russia.
The report further says that about nine US states, including California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, have versions of chemical castration in their laws. But it is unclear how frequently chemical castration is used in the United States.
CNN indicates that South Korea first used chemical castration in 2012 on a sex offender who had been convicted of four counts of rape or attempted rape on young girls. A law authorising this method of punishment for sex offenders came into effect sometime in 2011 after a public outcry over serial rapists breaking the law after serving their sentence.
The million-dollar question is, could the legalisation of chemical castration help Zambia combat sex crimes against women and children?
Just last week, a local organisation called Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISCCA) reacted sharply to suggestions of chemical castration.
Below is PRISCCAâ€™s thought provoking statement which brings out useful insights which, perhaps, advocates of castration may gloss over or may not be privy to:
While PRISCCA does not support any Zambian committing any crime, we would like to respond to those calling for castration of defilers to rethink their position on this matter.
Our stand as an organisation is that there is no law in Zambia that backs such acts. The current law on defilement is stiff enough. We believe the solution to the problem of defilement does not lie in imprisonment or castration only. The answer lies in addressing the root causes of defilement. When the root causes are found, national wide sensitisation or education can go a long way in bringing down the high defilement cases currently being reported. We say this because despite the stiff penalty the crime attracts, defilement cases have continued to be reported daily in the media.
In the past defilement attracted seven years but after calls for the punishment to be stiffened, it was increased to a minimum of 15 years. We therefore feel the answer lies in addressing the root cause.
Further, we are saddened by people who are calling for the castration of men involved in defilement. This seems to imply that only men are culprits. What then will happen to women defiling boy children? Will they be mutilated? We cannot subject our women to this kind of treatment and therefore the subject of mutilation does not stand.
Prisons Care and Counselling Association
Well, the impunity around child defilement is so annoying that aggrieved parties sometimes feel like we should resort to any means possible to make our communities safe.
Probably, this is why Sista D in her song, â€œVitendeniâ€, urges castration of defilers.
Though in this modern era, castration is a somewhat simple and painless chemical process, Sista D in her song, perhaps in metaphorical terms, actually calls for surgical castration.
Similarly, of late I have seen letters in the media, which I suppose PRISCCA was referring to, in which people are agitating for the castration of defilers.
Perhaps, one thing we are over-looking as the PRISCCA director observed, if we were to legalise chemical castration, what are we going to do about women who defile boys? Although men are more inclined to commit sex offences against children, women are not immune from these crimes.
For instance, a 23-year-old woman was arrested in Chipata a fortnight ago for having sex with a boy aged 15.
According to Hudson Namachila, the woman, only identified as Ms Dickson from Malawi, had sex with the boy at a Pigilani Guest House.
The argument by Mr Malembeka is that there are women, like Ms Dickson, who defile children, so if we are to stifle the sex drive of male offenders, will the women be subjected to genital mutilation.
In any case, as things stand, child defilement is a serious problem in Zambia today. Without overlooking PRISCCAâ€™s concerns, maybe we need to compare notes with countries that have legalised chemical castration.
If statistics that Zambia is among the countries where gender-based violence (including sexual violence) ranks high is anything to go by, then we need to learn from other countries.