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Mumbaiites, think your child’s teacher, bus driver could be a sex offender? Database can tell you

During the Assembly session, Kerala governor P Sathasivam spoke about his plans for a public national database of sex offenders

mumbai Updated: May 15, 2017 10:00 IST
Farhan Shaikh
Farhan Shaikh
Hindustan Times
sex offenders,database of sex offenders,rape
Authors Preeti Shenoy and Kiran Manral and actor Shama Sikander, recently signed the petition to join the cause.(HT FIle Photo)

Would it not be easier if you could look at your child’s teacher, your building’s security guard or the school bus driver and know your child is safe around them? A registry of sexual offenders could help you do just that.

Tracking offenders in other countries
  • USA: The National Sex Offender Registry is available only to law enforcement and is maintained by FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division. The National Sex Offender Public Website, which was started in 2005, is maintained with the help of the Department of Justice.
  • UK: Started in 2008, under the child sex offender disclosure scheme. According to an official announcement on UK’s government website, “child sex offender disclosure scheme allows parents and guardians to formally ask the police to tell them if someone has a record of child sexual offences.”
  • Australia: The government maintains a database for sex offenders, including people convicted of child abuse. Various organisations use this database to create awareness about convicts, including their last known location.

It’s not a new idea. In 2014, Madonna Jansen, a 26-year-old project manager with a private firm, started an online petition to set up a national sex offender’s registry. But the petition started getting attention only a couple of months ago, after Kerala governor P Sathasivam detailed a plan during a legislative Assembly session in Thiruvananthapuram in February.

The registry – “a first for the country” – would be maintained in a public database and include details of sex offenders, the governor said in the Assembly.

Soon after, the petition got 17,500 supporters, a number that is steadily rising. Till date, the petition has garnered 87,780 signatures.

Jansen said, “The goal is to reach 1.5 lakh signatures. It takes a lot of persuasion to get people to sign such petitions. Most of us waste time watching cat videos online. I am happy it has got this support, but we still need more before we take the petition offline.”

For more than a decade, USA has been using a national sex offender registry. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa also have similar systems in place.

“Here, we hire teachers without a second thought. What if the teacher turns out to be a paedophile? The registry could help you check if anyone employed in your child’s school has a history of sexual offences. Right now, the absence of a filter allows offenders to work with children,” Jansen added.

However, Jansen’s crusade was not a simple one. She still faces backlash from some, who feel the such a registry can be misused. Responding to such detractors, Jansen said, “The offenders are listed by authorised investigating officials. It would not include just any man or woman.”

Authors Preeti Shenoy and Kiran Manral and actor Shama Sikander, recently signed the petition to join the cause. “Every week , I talk to children who have been rescued from sexual offences. I strongly recommend that India get a national registry,” Sheela Khare, Child Welfare Committee chairperson, Mysore, Karnataka, said while signing the petition.

First Published: May 15, 2017 08:55 IST