India launches sex offender database amid outcry over rape

India has launched a national sex offender database, becoming the ninth country in the world to do so, after outcry over recent rape cases involving minors.

People marched on the streets with "stop rape" signs during a rally to remember the gang raped victim from New Delhi on December 16, 2014. Photo by arindambanerjee/Shutterstock
People marched on the streets with “stop rape” signs during a rally to remember the gang raped victim from New Delhi on December 16, 2014. Photo by arindambanerjee/Shutterstock

The database has 440,000 names registered as individuals convicted of sexual offenses since 2005.
It includes photos, addresses and fingerprints, in addition to names, and DNA samples, but it is only accessible to law enforcement agencies, not the public, and will be used for “investigating and monitoring” without compromising “any individual’s privacy,” the Home Ministry said in a statement.

A database was similarly proposed years ago after a 2012 gang rape case in New Dehli outraged the nation, but the United Progressive Alliance government muted the proposal at the time.

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This April, the National Democratic Alliance government took action to set up the database after national outcry over rapes against minors including the brutal rape of an 8-year-old girl.

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

Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association Kavita Krishnan told Al Jazeera implementing the database was a decision driven by “moral panic,” instead of research.

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“It is a decision driven by moral panic and not a studied and researched response based on recommendations from women rights groups,” Krishnan said. “A sex offenders register will not check sexual assaults in a country like India, where conviction rates of rapes are very low.”

“The idea of a register arises from a misplaced notion that rapists are usually strangers which is not true,” she added. “Most sexual violence perpetrators are known to the victim, most often someone within the family.”

In addition to the National Database on Sex Offenders, another portal has been launched to receive citizen complaints about objectionable online content from child pornography to child sexual abuse material and sexually explicit material.

BySommer Brokaw