Need to Enforce Existing Laws to Protect Women and Children
Reeling from protests across the country demanding justice for victims in the recent spate of sexual assaults, Indian authorities are under pressure to respond. One step the government has decided to adopt is a sex offenders’ database, which will store the profile and personal details of convicted offenders and those accused of such offenses. Children accused of such crimes may also be included in the database.
For several years, some senior government ministers have been calling for mandatory registration of sex offenders. It reflects public concern that children and women are at grave risk of sexual abuse by strangers who are repeat offenders.
But this concern is not borne out by facts.
According to 2016 government data, out of 38,947 cases of reported rapes in India, the accused was known to the victim in almost 95 percent of the cases. In nearly 4,000 cases, the accused was a close family member.
Rape is already underreported in India largely because of social stigma, victim-blaming, poor response by the criminal justice system, and lack of any national victim and witness protection law. This makes rape victims highly vulnerable to pressure to forego reporting the assault from the accused as well as the police. Children are even more vulnerable due to pressure from family and society.