Why is it that those outside the US can see the draconian nature of these laws, but we cannot?
By Charlotte Silver
Stringent sex offender laws in the United States destroy lives and do little to mitigate repeat offences.
Maybe it is not so surprising that all we can think to do with a subject we are simultaneously obsessed with and repulsed by is publicise it at every opportunity.
Sex crimes: The only kind of offence in the United States that compels all convicted perpetrators to register their name, address, date of birth, fingerprints and a photograph on a public website.
And what constitutes a sex crime? The breadth of this damning classification is alarming and includes public urination, consensual teen sex, sale of sex and exposure of genitals (including in the case of children) - as well as violent rape.
One poignant example of the irrationality and senseless devastation of overreaching sex offender laws is the story of Evan B, as told by (PDF) Lara Geer Farley. When Evan was in high school he was arrested for exposing himself to a group of his female peers. A court sentenced him to four months in prison, but after he was released he was obliged to register as a sex offender. The stigma drove Evan to drop out of school, leave his home in Salina, Oklahoma and move to Tulsa, where the arduous requirements associated with his sex offender status meant that he could not maintain employment. A month before he should have turned 20, Evan shot and killed himself.
And this: A comprehensive Human Rights Watch report, published in 2007, draws attention to the common case of teenage boys aged 15, 16, 17, who have consensual sex with their teenaged girlfriends, finding themselves charged with pedophilia. They will be labelled and publicly registered as "pedophiles" for the rest of their lives.
In some states, boys as young as 10 who expose themselves to their female friends or relatives are forced to register as a "sex offender" before they understand what sex - or exposure - is.