Recently, Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development reiterated setting up a national sex offender registry. This came after a sex offender confessed that he raped hundreds of girls for over 10 years in New Delhi.
This suggestion is not novel. Such registries are operational in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia for more than a decade. These sex offender registration laws obligate convicted offenders of a sexual offense to check in with law enforcement agencies periodically. They are required to provide details of their physical description and information about their residence, place of employment etc. This helps officials in tracking and monitoring former sex offenders.
Such sex offender registration laws and adequate public access to these records are meant to provide a sense of security to residents and parents. Unfortunately, these efforts haven t made a significant difference in sex crimes. In fact, public access to this data made available through public notification laws actually result in an increase in reoffending. Besides resulting in severe hardships to former sex offenders, they find it hard to gain employment and face harassment, threat, and violence from the community they live in. This stigmatises them for life and make their reformation harder and it is impossible for them to live a dignified life.
The Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 criminalises consensual sexual intercourse between minors and with minors. With the background of a weak institutional and investigative machinery, Ms. Gandhi s suggestion of setting up a sex offenders registries seems unrealistic and far-fetched.