Keep foreign paedophiles out, but create a data base on those closer home as well
Keeping paedophiles far away from children is part of the strategy of keeping them safe. This is what the minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi is seeking to do by writing to the minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj to revise the visa format so that foreign nationals with records of child abuse cannot enter India. Gandhi’s actions are clearly motivated by past experience. In 1991, Australian paedophile Freddy Peats was arrested for sexually exploiting young boys at a Goa orphanage for more than 17 years. Two decades later, in 2011, British social worker Jonathan Robinson, patron of the Gail Trust, was convicted of child sexual abuse. In 2011-12 alone, 66 British nationals in India pleaded for help to their consulates in cases of child sex abuse. But the the phenomenon of paedophiles preying on children is not restricted to foreigners alone. As per National Crime Records Bureau statistics, there were more than 94,000 crimes committed against children in 2015, many of them by paedophiles. Of these, almost 40% of cases were offences such as rape, molestation and sexual harassment. The recent shocking case of paedophile Sunil Rastogi, who carried on assaulting girls between 2004 and 2017 despite having five cases registered against him, could have been unearthed much earlier had a national register of sex offenders been in place. Earlier, during the 2006 Nithari serial murders, 10 girls went missing and were later found raped and murdered. Still the police could not connect the dots which could have helped apprehend serial offender Surinder Koli.
According to a study on child sexual abuse by the NGO HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, the number of crimes against children in India saw an increase of 528.9 % between 2005 and 2015. Child rape increased by 169.6% in the same period. The number of calls received by Childline 1098, a helpline for children in distress, rose from 2,969 in 2014-2015 to 4,340 in 2015-16.
Tourists who travel to other countries with the objective of abusing kids can be curtailed at the entry points. But beyond stricter visa norms, on the lines of Britain, we also need a mechanism to ensure convicted child sex offenders are barred from coming in contact with children.
A proposal for a national register of child sex offenders is reportedly pending before the ministry of home affairs on account of the scope being needed to be enlarged. This can waste precious time and put more children in danger.