Defender of the powerless talks about chemical castration in South Africa 

8 November 2022

With 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence approaching in December, the discussion on how to deal with the scourge of rape in our society was indeed relevant during a recent public lecture hosted by the Faculty of Humanities. The virtual lecture, attended by various lawmakers, members of the public and TUT staff members, forms part of the public lecture series presented by the Department of Safety and Security Management. 

Dr Advocate Linda Mbana.

According to Executive Dean, Prof Mashupye H Maserumule, one of the objectives of public lectures is to enable interactive discussions with the community while engaging with experts in the field of Humanities on pertinent issues – issues that affect us as South Africans as well as global citizens.

Dr Advocate Linda Mbana, TUT Alumna and Ombudsperson at Unisa, shared her views on chemical castration in the context of the South African justice system, asking if  “Chemical castration is an indication of a failing justice system in South Africa, or is it a recycling of rhetoric sentiments – where to from here?’’

Dr Mbana is an advocate with vast experience and stature in the legal field and widely known as a defender of the powerless.  In her opening remarks, she said she would not lecture but merely share her thoughts on this important topic. “I am privileged for the opportunity to address you, on the devastation that many women have seen caused by rape in our society.” 

She introduced the topic by sharing statistics of rape and the reporting of such incidents with the audience. “I stand with women who are victims of the scourge of rape without any cause and provocation. Therefore, as a woman, I call for the harshest possible measures to combat the effects of rape and related gender-based violence offences in our communities,” said Dr Mbana. 

She was however quick to emphasise that chemical castration might not be the answer to the problem in our society because rape is not a medical condition. According to her, chemical castration constitutes a violation of mental and bodily autonomy of the accused person. She explained that it does not simply diminish a person’s procreative rights, it also destroys their capacity to enjoy them. She contended that rape should be treated as a crime and dealt with in ways that do not infringe on the rights of the people of South Africa. 

“The root cause of the problem is systemic, rather than the ineffectiveness of the current criminal procedure act,” said Dr Mbana. 

She added that rehabilitation methods, such as the length of incarceration of the perpetrators, should be explored rather than to opt for chemical castration as a solution to dealing with rape. According to her, training of the members of the South African Police Services who deal with rape cases, should also be prioritised. “When the criminal justice system has been strengthened, there will be less calls for extreme measures such as chemical castration as a means to curb rape.”  

In conclusion, she said the effects of chemical castration are dire. Therefore, systematic reforms would probably deliver better results than treating rape as a medical condition.

TUT’s Prof Kholofelo Rakubu, Acting Head of the Department of Safety and Security Management and Prof Dane Ally, Head of Department of Law, were the two respondents to the lecture. 

In Prof Rakubu’s view: “… an eye for an eye approach should be called for in dealing with rape in South Africa.” 

She shared Dr Mbana’s sentiments on the rule of law and added that harsher punishment is needed for those who commit heinous crimes, such as rape. She concurred that rape is a crime and not a medical condition, adding that chemical castration is a rhetoric sentiment, especially when also dealing with women who rape; it is temporary as does not solve the problem at hand. 

Prof Ally agreed with Dr Mbana’s views to the extent that South Africa protects the rights of its people. “We should not violate the rights of members of our society. Our justice system should be given a chance to deal with rape as a crime and not jump to chemical castration as an answer for dealing with rapists,” he concluded. 

When the floor was opened to members of the public, robust discussions ensued on what should be done going forward in dealing with rapists in South Africa. The virtual lecture ended with a call for more debate on adequate solutions in dealing with rape in the context of our constitution. 

Prof KA Rakubu.
Prof D Ally.

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