Women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi has proposed a national register of sex offenders to keep a watch on people convicted of sexual offences, irrespective of their age.
“There is a need to have such a register for surveillance of sexual offenders. Such national registers are there in other countries, including USA and UK. Irrespective of whether the offender is 10 or 12- year- old or 50-year-old, the government should have a list to keep a track of those convicted of sexual offences,” Gandhi told HT.
In case of minor offenders, however, Gandhi said that the information should not be put on public domain but made available to only the law-enforcing agencies. “I have given the proposal to home minister Rajnath Singh. He said he will look into it,” the WCD minister said.
Gandhi’s proposal comes at a time when a debate is raging on whether juveniles between 16 and 18 years accused of heinous crimes such as rape should be treated as adults. While the amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, which is pending in the Rajya Sabha, seeks to treat such juvenile offenders as adults, child activists oppose the move.
The minister has sought views from the public on twitter and Facebook on whether India should have a National Registry for Sex Offenders.
The minister wants the register to have all details regarding the convict’s whereabouts. “After a sexual offender is set free, it should be made mandatory that he report to the local law enforcement agency on a regular basis and inform them about his whereabouts … where he is working, if he plans to go out of town, etc. The register should be maintained throughout the life of the convict,” she said.
The proposal comes in the backdrop of concerns being raised over how to keep track of the juvenile convicted in the December 2012 gang rape once he is released from the juvenile home.
Such surveillance system is already there in other countries. In the United States, the National Sex Offender Public Website was established in 2005. It allows every citizen access to sex offender data nationwide.
Similarly, the United Kingdom has a sex offender register since 1997 which has details of persons convicted, cautioned or released from prison for sexual offences.