RIGHTS VIOLATION

Rape wrong but death penalty, castration not solution – UN

Comes in the wake of recent reports of horrific rapes in numerous parts of the world.

In Summary
  • UN commissioner says these punishments will not resolve any of the myriad barriers to accessing justice, nor will they serve a preventive role.
  • Bachelet says while the main argument for capital punishment is that it deters rape, there is no evidence to support this.
Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi briefing the media on COVID-19 pandemic at Afya House on July 23, 2020/ MAGDALINE SAYA
Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi briefing the media on COVID-19 pandemic at Afya House on July 23, 2020/ MAGDALINE SAYA

Sexual violence is wrong but killing or castrating the perpetrators is not the answer, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said.

She said this in a statement on Thursday. 

Bachelet urged governments to step up action against sexual violence and improve access to justice and reparations for victims.

 

She said investigations and prosecutions should be prompt.

 

Her statement comes in the wake of recent reports of horrific rapes in numerous parts of the world, including Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tunisia.

These incidents have sparked outrage and demands for justice.

I share the outrage and stand in solidarity with the survivors, and with those demanding justice. But I am concerned that there are also calls – and in some places laws already being adopted – bringing in cruel and inhuman punishments and the death penalty for perpetrators,” she said.

Cases of rape have risen greatly, with the government announcing in July that close to 5,000 rape survivors had received medical treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said children below 18 years bear the greatest burden as they comprise 70 per cent of the survivors. Five percent of the survivors are male.

Mwangangi said HIV infections and unplanned pregnancies are some of the consequences of sexual violence.   

 

"The increase in violence has been witnessed globally and Kenya has not been spared. We have witnessed a seven per cent increase from March to June," she said.

Mwangangi said some counties have recorded a 30 per cent increase in violence. They include Wajir, Turkana, Kisii, Nandi, Lamu, Homa Bay and Kisumu.

"We are concerned because of gender-based violence during this period. We urge members of the public to ensure that they are protecting each other during this period," she said.

In most countries around the world, the key problem is that victims of sexual violence do not have access to justice in the first place – whether due to stigma, fear of reprisals, entrenched gender stereotypes and power imbalances, lack of police and judicial training, laws that condone or excuse certain types of sexual violence or the lack of protection for victims.
UN Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

Bachelet cited a legal amendment made last month in Kaduna state in northwestern Nigeria.

The law allows surgical castration for male rapists and the removal of the fallopian tubes of women convicted of the crime–a surgery known as bilateral salpingectomy.

These procedures will be followed by the death penalty if the victim is under 14.

The government of Bangladesh has approved an amendment that introduces the death penalty for rape, while in Pakistan there have been calls for public hanging and castration.

Similar demands for the death penalty have been made elsewhere.

Bachelet said while the main argument for capital punishment is that it deters rape, there is no evidence to support this.

Evidence shows that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, deters crime,” she said.

In most countries around the world, the key problem is that victims of sexual violence do not have access to justice in the first place – whether due to stigma, fear of reprisals, entrenched gender stereotypes and power imbalances, lack of police and judicial training, laws that condone or excuse certain types of sexual violence or the lack of protection for victims.”

Bachelet said the death penalty, or penalties such as surgical castration or removal of the fallopian tubes, will not resolve any of the myriad barriers to accessing justice, nor will it serve a preventive role.

In fact, the death penalty consistently and disproportionately discriminates against the poor and most marginalised individuals, and often results in further human rights violations,” she said.

She said surgical castration violates international human rights law.

 “I urge states to adopt a victim-centred approach to fighting the scourge of rape and other sexual violence. It is crucial that women are active participants in designing measures to prevent and address these crimes, and that law enforcement and judicial officials receive the requisite training in handling such cases,” Bachelet said.

 “Tempting as it may be to impose draconian punishments on those who carry out such monstrous acts, we must not allow ourselves to commit further violations.”

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya