Under a controversial, new law system for Bolivia’s indigenous people in the city of El Alto, thieves will have their hands amputated and those found guilty of rape will be chemically castrated.
After being sentenced in a newly created court, the unlucky crooks will be operated on by trained doctors paid to perform the procedures. However, if the doctors refuse to put the perps under the knife, lesser-trained, indigenous doctors from the surrounding highlands will be brought in to do the job.
Chemical castration is the administration of medication designed to reduce libido and sexual activity.
“Indigenous justice is handled differently, not between four walls as ordinary justice is. We will not be sending people to jail in these cases,” said Carmelo Titirico, leader of the National Council for Ayllu y Marka people, according to the New York Daily News.
The punishment was approved by the area's indigenous community “as it's the only way to stop those crimes,” he added.
Titirico said that the punishments are protected under Bolivia’s “community justice law.” Under current President Evo Morales, Bolivia is considered a plurinational state, which permits existence of multiple political communities and constitutional asymmetry.
While the measures could lead to widespread anger among the area’s indigenous peoples, Titirico said that his council won’t back down on their ruling.
The cutting off of hands has been used around the world for centuries as a way to punish thieves. Under Islamic law, the punishment is sometimes used part of Hdud and usually refers to the class of punishments that are fixed for certain crimes that are considered to be "claims of God."
Just a few months ago, a thief convicted of theft in war-torn Mali had his hand cut off by one of the radical Islamist groups controlling the northern part of the country.
Chemical castration has also been used in countries around the world as a way to prevent sex offenders, especially those convicted in crimes against children, from repeating their acts. Both South Korea and Russia currently have laws that permit for chemical castration of sex offenders.
It sounds more like a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim approach. I presume these Indians are practicing their traditional culture and religion, but perhaps they've converted to Christianity.
Traditional Native justice usually involves things like talking circles and banishment. You know, nonviolent approaches that favor restitution and rehabilitation over retaliation and retribution. Tribes weren't known for executing, imprisoning, or flogging their wrongdoers.
The traditional Native approach stems from viewing people as a mix of good and evil, I believe, not pure evil. Religious fundamentalists think differently, of course.
Does the penalty fit the crime?
Anyway, I could see chemical castration for rape, especially a second offense. I presume it can be reversed, so that's an advantage.
I can't see cutting off someone's hand. This is usually applied to relatively minor offenses by relatively poor people.
If you cut off a billionaire's hand when he cheated his company, his shareholders, or the public, then you might have something, but that'll never happen. Only the poor suffer under this harsh form of "justice."
It's also stupid because it doesn't resolve much. The victim doesn't get compensated for the stolen goods. The perpetrator probably becomes a burden on the taxpayer. And if the perpetrator is bent on stealing, he can hire someone to do it for him.
I guess this measure cows people into frightened submission, which doesn't sound healthy. And someone who doesn't like the repressive climate can go elsewhere, so the measures merely export the crime. Really, what's the advantage of making your society as harsh and unforgiving as Saudi Arabia? Does anyone except a rich sheik want to live that way?
For more on Bolivia, see Whitewashing in Quantum of Solace and Bolivia's Coke to End with Maya Calendar.