Chemical castration is a weak deterrent to rape

In Social on January 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm


a tribute by Julie McCarthy of NPR a BBC interview with Damini’s father

India saw a tragic conclusion to an intensely watched incident.  The 23-year old victim of gang-rape passed away.  The protests that gathered steam at India Gate, broke down with grief and demanded severe forms of punishments including death by hanging.  One such popular form of punishment being toyed around was chemical castration (ChemCast) of the rapists.  The Congress party quickly picked up chemical castration as a viable deterrent to rape.

In my opinion, they are trying to appease a seething mass of protesters into believing they are tough on this violence against women.

To understand the confusion, let us first lay to rest some popular misconceptions regarding ChemCast:

  • No, they do not pour acid over erring organ
  • No, the erring organ does not fall off
  • No, it is not all that painful. an injection’s needle prick is all the pain
  • No, the loss in libido is not permanent, it lasts for three months only

Interestingly, due to some strong myths being busted above, I would have disappointed many Indians that are demanding a severe punishment to convicted rapists.

Chemical castration in a way is a cure for hypersexuality which often pushed a person to sexual crimes, so I would classify it as a curative rather than punitive option.

– Dr Rommel Tikkoo, Max Super Speciality Hospital Saket.


To summarize, what ChemCast means:

  • It’s an injection given once in three months
  • The effect of loss of libido lasts for three months, per injection
  • The effect is reversible, by discontinuing the injections
  • It is less severe than surgical castration, which is irreversible
  • It is administered to repeat offenders and has shown to be effective

Chemical castration reduces aggressiveness, libido etc, but what will make it a logistical nightmare is the periodicity of the treatment. Nobody will come for it on their own and tracking will be an issue. It will be open to abuse. Besides, there is a waxing and waning of the effect, so towards the end of the period, the person may regain his sexual urge. So if the choice is between the death penalty and castration, then physical castration is a more foolproof option against rape. Chemical castration may be an option for more minor sex offences like molestation or eve-teasing.

– Dr Vikas Malhotra, Maulana Azad Medical College.

If libido exists as a mismanaged pathological condition causing sexual abuse to non-consenting individuals, then ChemCast is a good way of restraining it.  But to prove that it is a mismanaged pathological condition, the accused should be a repeat offender. Hence, in my opinion, ChemCast is not the necessary course of action for a first time offender.

Rape has more to do with subjugation, domination, hatred, misogyny than the singular factor commonly and mistakenly attributed as the root cause – sex.

If ChemCast treats sexual libido, who will treat the rest of the above stronger contributing factors for rape?

Plus the reasons for gang-rape are very different and sex is not necessarily a motivating factor as much as camaraderie, misogyny, diffusion of responsibility, deindividuation and modeling. what chemical will treat those other major contributing factors?

The government is trying to focus on this simplistic band-aid solution to a massive head injury with profuse bleeding and a visible hatchet. The solution lies elsewhere. as feminist-activist Kavitha Krishnan states this is not gender-just. rape can no longer be looked through a narrow prism of penetrative sex, where organs are involved.  It has been by our legal system.  Along with a broken and non-existent forensic investigation contingent, we no doubt have a dismal conviction rate.

Curiously, ChemCast is viewed as fair and equitable justice. When a woman’s honor is ruined and lost ‘forever’ due to rape, we justify that the rapist’s erring organ should meet a similar ruin – permanent castration. In my opinion, this approach to equitable justice is flawed.

The crime of rape is gender-unjust, and so is castration.


Secondly, ChemCast has absolutely no teeth and is a sheep in wolves clothing. The government wants you to believe that by setting this law in motion they have done their best. While there is so much to do, this is a simple escape route for a confused government charged with apathy.

Even as a curative option, it is temporary. So the need is to have stringent laws and behavioural counselling rather than regular medications which will only make the system open to abuse.

– Dr Atul Gogia, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

ChemCast is a quick-fix, populist implementation that will not deter a would-be rapist.

Kavita Krishnan, Activist Kiran Bedi, Activist
Urvashi Butalia, Activist Sonia Faleiro, Author ‘Beautiful Thing’
KQED – Forum – Michael Krasny OnPoint (Anand Giridharadas+Sonia Faleiro)
Kiran Bedi – Now or Never NPR Julie Macarthy – Sexual Assault in Rural India

Some additional notes:

  1. Wanton soup for the Indian Rapist
  2. The three Doctors quoted above
  3. Sita, interrupted
  4. Against Castration: Himika Bhattacharya and Deepti Misri
  5. Justice Verma Committee says No! to castration

The social psychology behind gang rapes – Parrot and Bechhofer

Individuals are shown to be more aggressive in groups than they would be alone. Social psychologists have defined three factors which may explain why groups are easily spurred into aggressive behavior. These factors are diffusion of responsibility, deindividuation, and modeling, all of which can be applied to the dynamics of gang rape.

1. Diffusion of responsibility refers to situations in which the presence of others acting in a similar manner diminishes the feeling of responsibility that any one person may feel. Thus, no one individual in a gang rape believes that he is solely to blame for the victimization taking place.

2. Deindividuation refers to loss of self-awareness, including one’s beliefs, morals, and standards, in a group setting. Loss of self is encouraged to promote group spirit or to prompt behavior that is viewed as unacceptable. Strong cohesion within a group can produce deindividuation by substituting a group identity with its own histories and beliefs. It would stand to reason that if one’s group identity is stronger than one’s personal identity then acceptance of gang rape by the group would out-weigh one’s individual objections.

3. Modeling – The last group dynamic that can be applied to the incidence of gang rape is modeling. When group identity produces conformity, modeling of aggression can take place. Not only would watching the rape of an individual demonstrate the appropriateness of the behavior taking place but it would also show how it is done.

Summary of my email to Justice J.S. Verma:

(Justice Verma seeks suggestions from public to amend the law after #DelhiGangRape. Email:

Form a committee represented by: the citizen, the govt., the police, sociologists, women, social workers, advocates, the media and educationists

Every state must have one such committee that gives inputs to a national committee and should probably come under the Department of Women and Child Welfare.  Let these committees do the following:

  • Formulate a draft proposal to fight the crime
  • Track every VAW (violence against women) incident in the state.
  • Create a rapid response team of committee members who can immediately be at the site of the incident in less than an hour. Leaving this just to the police may not be the best practice.
  • Educationists should work on creating teaching modules for gender sensitization for schools, colleges, police,
  • Have a hotline that works. A monthly publishing of the data. make information accessible to the public. Media should play key role.
  • Hold a monthly televised town-hall type meeting to see if we are headed in the right direction.
  • Constant communication is key to success of this program.  Social audits are essential.





The New Delhi Gang-Rape and Other Gender Issues
chemcast indianfilms hijra
Wanton Soup for the Indian Rapist Do Indian films promote sexual harrasment? The Hijras of India


  1. Found you through

    A very interesting read indeed. You are more than right when writing “Rape has more to do with subjugation, domination, hatred, misogyny than the singular factor commonly and mistakenly attributed as the root cause – sex.” Rape is domination via sex. While it may cater to certain sexual needs and wants it is more about feeling superior to the victim than anything else. Instead of only discussing an apt punishment for (sex) offenders I think what is also needed is an open discussion about why crimes like the Delhi Rape/Murder occur. And I mean not only to talk about misogyny but also about how society is enabling violent crimes by mistreating a high percentage of its members. Because in a way – and I know the following one is not really taken well by many – the rapists are victims, too. I doubt that one can attribute their doing only to a prevalent mental disorder but I think that crimes like that are sometimes a reaction to experienced inequality – I mean all the hate and need for domination has to come from somewhere. This shall not excuse their doing (after all if mentally sane these men and men and women in general who commit violent crimes have a usually a choice) but could (should!) be taken as a framework to look at (sexual) deviance in general.

    As for the use of surgical castration: There was a case 10 or 15 years ago in Germany, where a sex offender has been castrated while being in prison. Once out he raped and killed a little girl – having been prescribed hormones by a doc who was clueless about his history. So even there is a way to get out of the so-called punishment. He was then shot by the kid´s mother. A tragic case, since it left victims (because also the offender´s family members are victims) left and right.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Lyn. On the day you posted your response, I was busy mulling over a document of suggestions put forth by The Justice Verma Committee, to bring about amendments to the criminal law in India. It took inputs from 80,000 people to build a case for better treatment of women in India. It went past it’s brief and covered the issue from many angles. The entire document makes for an exciting strategy and addresses your questions. Most activists, academicians and citizens are extremely happy with the quick turn-around and thorough investigation of root causes and eventual remediation plans. It is now up to the political class to execute it!

    Specifically, on the subject of castration, the committee does not recommend it and thinks it is barbaric.

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