India launches sex offenders register to tackle rape epidemic

Official figures show around 40,000 cases of rape are recorded in India every year

Toyin Owoseje
Saturday 22 September 2018 15:54
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India's government responded to widespread outrage over incidents of violence against women and young girls by approving the death penalty for people convicted of raping children under the age of 12.
India's government responded to widespread outrage over incidents of violence against women and young girls by approving the death penalty for people convicted of raping children under the age of 12.

India has established its first national sex offenders registry in it's latest bid curb the country’s rape epidemic.

The South Asian nation’s government announced the registry following nationwide outrage over a string of high-profile cases of sexual violence against women and children. Official figures show around 40,000 rape cases are recorded in India every year.

The National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO) “will assist in effectively tracking and investigating cases of sexual offences”, the Home Ministry said.

The database features 440,000 names including those convicted of rape, gang rape, child sex crimes and sexual harassment and also holds their photo, fingerprints and address.

However, unlike in the United Kingdom and the United States, the information will only be accessible to law enforcement officials. It will be maintained by India's centralized National Crime Records Bureau. In the UK, for example, the child sex offender disclosure scheme allows parents, carers and guardians to formally ask the police to tell them if someone has a record for child sexual offences.

The gang rape and murder of 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern, Jyoti Singh Pandey on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 sparked protests and the promise of effective reforms. However, five years on and there has been a surge in crime with not enough convictions.

Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of State in India's Home Affairs Ministry, told CNN that more needed to be done to fight the country’s “greatest enemy". A survey published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June ranked India the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman.

"Whatever we have been doing is not enough ... It's shameful for our whole society," Mr Rijiju said of latest bid to hold perpetrators accountable.

The announcement comes days after a head teacher and four staff members of a boarding school in northern India were arrested over the rape of a teenage student.

In another shocking case, a seven-year-old girl who was raped with a water hose in Delhi earlier in September.

In January, an eight-month-old baby was raped in New Delhi, and two other girls were assaulted and their bodies mutilated in Haryana.

In April this year, in response to the growing outrage, the government introduced the death penalty for people convicted of raping children under the age of 12.

“For any real change, the government must do the hard work of actually implementing the laws and policies” Jayshree Bajoria of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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