HYDERABAD: Hyderabad recently joined the list of places planning to setup a sex offenders registry. Speaking to Express, Swati Lakra, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crimes) said the work to build a registry was already in process and it would serve as a deterrence mechanism. The registry, Lakra said, would be on the lines of those implemented in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, both of them have different methods. In UK, the information of sex offenders remains with police and officials trained to deal with such people and situations.
In US, where the system has faced a lot of criticism, the information is on public domain. This, experts say, leads to stigmatisation of the offender and his family, deterring their will to reform. The system, that began in the early 90s, has done more harm than good, add experts. For instance, there are juveniles on the list, who are still ostracised and left with no job. A study by Human Rights Watch says publishing the identity of offenders on public domain usually leads to harassment or violence against them. In many cases, residency restrictions are imposed, forcing them to live far away from their homes and families.
Further, there is no evidence that prohibiting sex offenders from living near places where children gather will protect them from sexual violence. A detailed analysis shows UK’s system to be more workable.
Activists say there’s an additional system needed in place. “There is a need for monetary investment, along with human and technical resources,” pointed out a well informed source. Also, the crucial point to be considered is that most crimes against women and children are committed by those in their intimate circles. Most of the crimes, again, often go unreported.
A study, Rethinking the Indian Sex Offender Registry, by Stuti Subbaiah Kokkalera, a doctoral student at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, Boston looks specifically at reconsidering the inclusion of juveniles and accused who have not been tried in the court of law yet, which is part of the proposed National Sex Offenders’ Registry in India. It highlights that including those who are accused will prevent their chance of undergoing a fair trial. Besides this, it suggests that the budget allocated for this can be diverted for prison reforms, with changes in the rehabilitation programmes which can prevent recidivism.
VK Singh, director-general of prisons feels better prison reforms will help in the address the issue. “Most of the accused are generally not convicted. Also, all crimes are inter connected and this should be looked at from a holistic perspective to address mindsets rather than target individuals,” he said. Most of the convicts have it engraved in their sub-conscious that they have not been treated justly by the system. “Systematic counselling and providing them alternatives for survival will help rather than branding them, he said.
Activist Sunita Krishnan says that the process requires a policy first. “There should be a separate cell to monitor them. For instance, a street-stalker can bemonitored and mandated to come to the cell every quarter and update their details. In case of convicted rapists, it could be around 14 years or so.”