The Governor of Kerala P Sathasivam has announced that Kerala will begin sex offenders registry.
The move, which the Governor declared as the first of its kind in the country, was announced in the Assembly at the beginning of the Budget Session.
Sathasivam said the increasing immunity of sex offenders due to lack of social deterrence was a growing concern all over the country.
As reported by The News Minute, the Governor said, “To ensure deterrence, my government will set up a sex offenders’ registry which will maintain all identification details of sex offenders. It will be the first in the country and will be kept in the public domain … All necessary measures shall be taken to uphold safety and security to their lives. Let me assure this house that my government shall not pardon any action from anyone that is calculated to be an affront to women.”
The Union government had announced plans to open a national sex offender registry as far back as in April 2016. This was to be along the lines of the registries maintained in Western countries including the US and the UK. Such a registry would be available online and maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Abuse in Kerala
Studies of statistics provided by the NCRB found an alarming increase in the rate of sexual abuse of girl children in Kerala. Additionally, only 7% of the Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases reported in Kerala have been disposed in the last four years. Four children, on an average, are sexually abused in Kerala every day and the number of sexual offences against children has doubled in the past three years (reported 2016).
The incidence of rape in Kerala is 63 per lakh population while the national average stands at 56.3 – thrice as high as the rate in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu (18.3).
Kerala has the reputation of being one of India’s most progressive states. As such, it has tried to repeatedly to address the issue. The issue became all the more highlighted after the incident of sexual abuse of a popular young actress in Kerala.
The debate over the efficiency of a sex offender registry
Arguments against a registry:
- The registry would be ineffective when it comes to rehabilitation of the perpetrators, staining the person’s name for their entire life.
- Is it possible for a 100% conviction rate – that is, is it possible to be sure that all the names on such a registry would surely be guilty and there would be no false cases?
- As the list will be made public, there are chances of the family (especially children) of the abuser being bullied or boycotted.
Arguments for a registry:
- It is important for employers and the public to know of people with the past of perpetrating abuse. For example, a registry could eliminate chances of convicted paedophiles being employed in schools.
- It is important for police authorities to track the movements of abusers and ensure that their rehabilitation process is successful and does not include any repetitions of the crime.
- While the list is important, there should be steps to ensure that innocent people are not on this list. To this effect, some measures could be to check if the people on the list are convicted and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or have a history of sexual abuse. It is also important to sensitise and educate the employers about rehabilitation.