Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Letter to the Kenyan National Assembly on Castration

Mheshimiwa Francis ole Kaparo, Spika wa Bunge:

Sent via email to:

My name is Onyango Oloo and I am writing to you from Montreal, Quebec at around saa moja na dakika ishirini na tano leo jioni ya jumatano tarehe ishirini na saba mwezi wa nne mwaka wa elfu mbili na tano.

Usually, we get a head start on you folks back home when it comes to the daily newspapers. You may make the news headlines back there at home, but over here huku ng'ambo ughaibuni we get to read the news first when you are still snoring in your respective beds. Well, we know some of you are busy hunting for machangudoa ndogo ndogo on Koinange street but today I will not touch that, ama vipi Mheshimiwa?

The reason why I am writing to you today is because of the news that I have read in the Standard, the Daily Nation and the Kenya Times.

I am sending you this email with a simple request:

Could you place a copy of this message in the cubby hole/slot reserved for each MP?

I would like to share with ALL OF THEM my opinions about the moto moto debate on rapists and what to do with them in Kenya today.

In particular I would like you to pass this message to

Ms. Njoki Ndungu who brought the important motion to parliament and

Attorney General Amos Wako who heartily endorsed it;

I would want you to pass this message along to

Saku MP Abdi Sasura who thinks that stoning rapists ala southern Ethiopia style is the way to go in 21st Century Kenya;


Works Minister Raila Odinga who is musing openly about a death sentence for rapists;


Health Minister Charity Ngilu who quotes the Bible to justify physical castration in a modern day hospital setting;


Dr Ruth Oniango who had some strong views and South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara who relishes the idea of a firing squad final solution-a call backed to the hilt by his FORD-People colleague, top debater

Jimmy Angwenyi


Ikolomani MP Doc Khalwale who would like members of the public to witness rapists having their testicles removed and all the other wabunge who were united in a chorus of condemnation against rapists.

Incidentally, I wonder what

Julius Sunkuli had to say about the subject?

Mister Speaker Sir,

Let me first say that rape is a very serious offence. It is COMMENDABLE that Ms. Njoki Ndungu has brought the issue to parliament and that for once Kenyan MPs are almost UNANIMOUS in wanting to do something quickly about such a grave matter. I hope they will keep up the same unity in ensuring that Kenyans finally get the long promised democratic constitution.

Having said that Mister Speaker Sir, let me immediately indicate to all those waheshimiwa wabunge that Onyango Oloo DISAGREES PROFOUNDLY with their rather outlandish ideas for dealing with rape and other related sexual offences.

Death by Firing Squad??!! Are you serious Messrs Magara and Angwenyi?

Capital Punishment??? Is that what you said Ndugu Raila Agwambo Tinga Tinga?

Death by Stoning, eh, Mbunge Abdi Sasura?

Physical Castration in a Hospital Setting Mrs. Charity Ngilu?

PUBLIC Castration! You do not say, ama namna gani Daktari Khalwale?

I do not mean to be RUDE, waheshimiwa wabunge, but let me ask ALL of YOU this simple swali:

Are you nowadays supplied with some potent bhang'i or classic chang'aa as part of your parliamentary marupu rupu or do you usually purchase your own supplies?

Were ANY of you SOBER when you were making some of the above OUTRAGEOUS recommendations?

Please tell me it was all A JOKE, because surely, surely you JEST, O Esteemed Kenyan parliamentarians.

Why do I call these recommendations OUTRAGEOUS?

Simply because they are earlier than medieval. Some of them are drawn directly from the tribal days of those ancient Israelites.

So what are you going to legislate next?

An eye for an eye? A tooth for a tooth? A leg for a leg? A nose for a nose? An elbow for an elbow?

What is the DIFFERENCE between your recommendations and the daily actions of frothing wananchi meting out the crude "mob justice" to suspected pickpockets in the streets of Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kitale, Voi, Machakos, Kitui, Nyeri and elsewhere?

Mister Speaker Sir, instead of repeating myself, let me share with you what I said about this subject on a certain online Kenyan discussion group called Mashada:

Forum name Politics
Topic subject I Agree With Tinkerbell
Topic URL
57033, I Agree With Tinkerbell
Posted by Onyango Oloo, Tue Oct-12-04 12:34 PM

rape is a very serious crime. my views on rape have been expressed here and elsewhere.

as a society, kenyans must grapple with this endemic problem and come up with lasting solutions.

zapping the testicles of sexual offenders- or even hacking off their entire genitals is not part of the smorgasbord of suggested and viable solutions in my view.

there are reasons why rapists rape. their pricks and balls are a tiny part of the solution. chemical castration of rapists would be like cutting the fingers of apprehended car thieves to eliminate auto theft. it is equally stupid, inhuman and completely ineffective.

as someone else pointed out earlier on this thread, rape is NOT about SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, but about a VIOLENT MANIFESTATION of HATRED, CONTROL and POWER. Nothing stops a castrated rapist from using something else(my sisters in South Africa tell me that rapists in that country routinely stuff bottles up the vaginas and rectums of their female victims even as they torture them, sometimes for hours) including bayonets, steel pipes, knives, spears etc. It is NOT ABOUT THE SEX, it is about the violence.

And we have to get to the ROOTS of that violence.

Besides, let us not forget that the vast majority of rapists are never apprehended because they happen to be family members, spouses, co-workers, neighbours who will routinely and repeatedly sexually assault someone they know. I can bet that at least two dozen of the Mashada sisters on this forum have been sexually molested, raped and otherwise violated by people they know- cousins, fellow students, club dates, parents, uncles, boyfriends, spouses etc and some may have been assaulted even last night or this morning. and yet they will NEVER report this horrendous crime.

Am I advocating an all expenses paid safari excursion for sexual offenders? do not be ridiculous. Of course, there should be appropriate sentencing accompanied by a thorough program of reform and rehabilitation involving social workers, psychologists, community based organizations etc- even as women (who are the PRIMARY victims of rape) are sensitized and empowered on rape prevention strategies etc...

I am opposed to the death penalty for the same reason that I question the efficacy of chemical castration. Castrating a rapist in Mombasa will not prevent another man from using his penis in Wajir to rape. And like I said, even if you could identify all the rapists in Kenya and cut their pricks off, nothing will prevent the very same men from using other implements to rape women.

Onyango Oloo

I later on added the following during a robust exchange with a fellow Kenyan named "Sadik" posting on the same forum:

Forum name Politics
Topic subject RE: @
Topic URL
57073, RE: @
Posted by Onyango Oloo, Tue Oct-12-04 05:50 PM

Sadik Says:
>On the miscellaneous points OO raised, I respond by saying,
>1. That, rape can occur in a family is neither here nor there.
>A rapists is a rapists and the Law should not treat rapist
>differently because he is a family member.

You missed my point. It was a very simple one. We have to deal with the multidimensional attributes of rape by recognizing first and foremost that the MAJORITY of the rapists know their victims very intimately- frequently being family members. Until and unless we grasp that fact we are going to be chasing chimeras going after the bogeyman rapist conjured up by movies and popular culture- a strange predator who pounces on unsuspecting women he does not know. If we deal with the proper profile of the actual rapists in our midst we realize that the problem is of a greater magnitude than people want to admit. For example, how many men in mashada here have committed rape, sexual assault and similar crimes against females they know? How many will come forward?

Sadik Says:
>2. Kenya cannot provide basic health facilitate or adequate
>food supply to its citizens. To expect that it would provide a
>treatment regime for rapists is far fetched.

That is a fallacious assertion. Believe me, if the Kenyan government can afford to pay MPs at least half a million shillings every month not counting other perks, we certainly have the resources to provide basic health care for all.

Sadik Says:
>3. The logic is that where a rapist is chemically castrated in
>Mombasa, that punishment will act as a deterrent to a rapists
>in Wajir and, consequently, reduce rape nationwide. The
>message will be clear: rape and get castrated!

For almost forty years we have had laws in our statute books that punish armed robbery with death. Yet, since that law was enacted, have we seen the number of robberies go up or down? The thugs who killed that young worker who was using his last one thousand shillings to rush his wife to the maternity ward see in the papers everyday reports of convicted felons sentenced to hang at Kamiti. Chemical castration WILL NOT be a deterrent.
>I say bring on the chemical castration! It is a cheap way to
>handle the growing rape menace and a formidable punishment and
>a deterrent to repeat rapists.

Sadik in my opinion you betray a profound gap in understanding the complexity of rape. It is way more nuanced than the constellation of genitals and the associated parts of the body that trigger these so called rapes. That is a sociobiological reductionist argument.

So if we take the philosophy of crime and punishment to its logical conclusion, should we then:

Set fire to arsonists?
Cut off the hands of pick pockets
Pump car thieves with drugs that erase their memory on how to drive cars, trucks and motorbikes?

Should we put cattle rustlers on a mandatory vegetarian diet?

It goes without saying that I find it not only RIDICULOUS, but completely INEFFECTIVE when it comes to proving its central justification- DETERRENCE.

And let me reiterate that RAPE is not about SEX, a point driven home by Abu Ghraib. Right now Kenyan police officers, prison warders, soldiers, judges, magistrates, politicians etc the very people who would be entrusted with implementing chemical castration find some of the most notorious rapists in their midst- and let me limit myself to one name- Julius Sunkuli who has not even brought to court under our existing non-chemical rape laws.

Another point, since we know that the justice system is weighted against poor people, what will we do to reverse the injustice of someone WRONGLY found to be guilty of rape, sentenced to chemical castration only for him to emerge years later as completely INNOCENT? How do you compensate such an individual?

Do you give that person a new set of balls or you rewire his brain?

Onyango Oloo

Your fellow parliamentarians may want to study the following statement from the Cape Town Rape Crisis Centre regarding the issue of chemical castration:


Rape Crisis Cape Town is opposed to chemical (and indeed any form of) castration. In response to the statement by deputy President Jacob Zuma in Parliament in late October, 1999, we would like to draw attention to the following (which do note even begin to touch on the human rights issues raised):

We are aware that the South African Law Commission is looking at the possibility of various sentencing options in cases of rape; we are also aware that this forms part of a wider examination of all current legislation pertaining to sexual offences (including the definition of rape).

We are not convinced that chemical (or any other kind) of castration would deter rapists. On the contrary, what we know of rape as a crime of violence and control mitigates against the notion that chemical castration would either stop rape happening or deter potential rapists. To suggest that it would is to suggest that rape is an unplanned act by a man who upon seeing an attractive woman is overcome by lust and cannot control his sexuality. This is an old myth and blatant nonsense.

Even if chemical castration were effective, it would involve costs for an injection of a chemical cocktail which is effective for a maximum of three months. This raises several questions. At what point would the injection be given - while he is in jail? In which case, what is the point? When he comes out - in which case, who would monitor the ongoing administration of the drugs? Instead of a jail sentence - if the drugs are being administered to repeat offenders, then this would go against the new minimum sentencing legislation.

South Africa has a very low conviction rate for rape. The number of convictions of repeat offenders for rape is relatively small. So, at most, the injection (even if it is effective) would be given to a tiny minority of rapists. We fail to see how this would deter anyone.

We feel that, with limited resources available, these would be better spent on the implementation and monitoring of legislation, on the training of relevant medical and legal professionals who interface with rape survivors, on the provision of adequate facilities for rape survivors at police stations and hospitals, and on increasing our low conviction rate in rape cases (currently around 5% to 7%).

We are disturbed that political parties are using this issue to score points off each other. Although we welcome the fact that the issue is receiving attention even in Parliament, we are concerned that various speakers during the debate used the opportunity to trumpet about what they are doing or asking for, rather than focusing on real solutions.

In addition, the US situation to which the IFP MP referred when she suggested this "solution" has been described to me as follows (by: Widney Brown, Advocacy Co-ordinator, (Women's Rights Division, Human Rights Watch) "Chemical castration is only used with convicted paedophiles in the U.S. and only at their request. It is not used on others convicted of rape or other crimes of sexual violence.

We are opposed to the use of chemical (or other forms of) castration because it is arguably violative of the prohibition against cruel and inhumane punishment. But more importantly, it fails to address the crime of rape within our understanding of what that crime is-not a crime of sexual desire - but of violence and of asserting power over a victim. Personally, as someone who counselled rape survivors over a 10+ year period in NY, I know of too many cases in which women were raped with knives, bottle, sticks of dynamite, guns etc., making the focus on castration seem irrelevant. Also, in the U.S., we have a history of sterilisation abuse, often directed at poor people, or people of colour- making the use of chemical castration particularly loaded.

Mister Speaker Sir:

What I am saying is that rape will NOT be eradicated simply by stoning, shooting, castrating or hanging rapists by their testicles in broad daylight at Uhuru Park.

Those PRIMITIVE, totally BACKWARD methods of punishment belong in the 13th, 14th and 15th Century BC, not in the year 2005.

If we are serious about eradicating rape from Kenyan society, perhaps it may be wise to heed the counsel of the

Opposition Leader, Uhuru Kenyatta, when he says that it is not enough to punish rapists without looking at what causes rapists to rape.

More importantly, at least from where I sit here in Montreal is for Kenyans to ask themselves about WHAT model of justice we are going to embrace in Kenya in the 21st Century.

Are we going to adopt the harsh regime from the Old Testament and similar scripture from other faiths or are we going to implement a model of justice that is consistent with contemporary international human rights covenants, protocols and instruments?

Are we going to degenerate backwards in time to a vengeful retributive mob justice mentality or are we going to explore a restorative model that protects the victims of rape while laying the basis for the cure, reformation and rehabilitation of all sexual offenders- especially the repeat culprits?

Mister Speaker Sir, I am writing to you and all the Kenyan MPs because I am very, very, very worried about your cavalier approach to social justice in Kenya. I have seen reports of

cabinet ministers casually talking of a resumption of the shoot to kill policy- yet this goes against Kenya’s existing laws.

Dear Kenyan Wabunge:

In trying to redress the long neglect around rape and its victims in Kenya, please do not transform our country into an East African Taliban State where rapists are stoned at Nyayo Stadium on Fridays and Sundays- that is when they are not castrated at Kamkunji on Tuesdays or killed by firing squad at Uhuru Park on Wednesdays, hanged outside Parliament Buildings on Thursdays or chemically neutered at Kenyatta National Hospital on Mondays.

Onyango Oloo

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