Wednesday, January 9, 2013

INDIA - India should think twice about its sex offender register

Original Article



India surely needs to take action against sexual violence, but the experience around the world is that sex offender registers can do more harm than good, writes Ali Winters.

As the ashes of a young woman's traumatized body are scattered, we are left to face the horror of the sickening gang rape which led to her death.

How the Indian government responds to this hellish act and how they answer their citizens' outrage is under intense international scrutiny.

In response to the eruption of public protest, the Indian government is desperate to be proactive. The six accused men have been arrested and are facing a murder charge.

Thus far, there is only one other tangible action that's risen above the white noise of fast-track rape courts, harsher penalties, and a parliamentary commission - a public sex offender register.

The minister of state for home affairs, RPN Singh, has said of the register, "We are planning to start it in Delhi. Photographs, names and addresses of the rapists will be uploaded on the Delhi Police as well as NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) website."

The database will expand to identify and locate every convicted and released sex offender in all of India. But no one truly believes an online register is going to end a problem that manifests through deeply ingrained attitudes.

When the prime minister's own son, Abhijit Mukherjee, a politician himself, publicly stated that [the protesters] are "highly dented-painted" women who go "from discos to demonstrations", then yes, India has a problem.

But far from being the solution, could a public online register make things worse?

In the ensuing anger, fear and vengeance of the gang rape murder, indeed it will.

Shortly after the woman's death made headlines across India, a large group of villagers from the North East attacked and killed four youths and a middle aged man accused of "frequently teasing the women and girls of the village".

This same mentality is what killed Jesus!

Last week, homemade bombs were planted in Ravidas, the slum town home to the six accused gang rapists.

Progressive social norms coexist with archaic cultural beliefs in India. Giving a sex offender register to the uneducated masses without the instruction manual will cause a cycle of violence and hatred that will feed on itself.

There is undeniable horror in what is happening in India. But there is no evidence that an online sex offender register will be effective in protecting women and children.

The social experiment of sex offender registers has played out nowhere more lavishly and hysterically than in the United States. Garish crime tabloid newspapers are spewed out across the country with photos of the convicted, but also of people who have only been charged, implying guilt before innocence.

The courts and police hand over information to private publishers who make their profits, spreading names and addresses with panic and hatred.

In Louisiana, sex offenders are reserved for a particularly ruthless regime of public notification. This includes the usual website, but more impudent requirements, such as taking out newspaper ads if released offenders change address.

Released offenders must also carry a special identification card that includes the words "sex offender" in orange capital letters. It's to be on the person at all times. They can be imprisoned for six months for failing to carry the card.

No comments :