Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues
Effects of globalization on Indian society, Social empowerment
General Studies 2
Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Sexual offences against women and policies to combat it
Sexual crimes against women are on the rise. The crimes are widely prevalent in every society, though most of them remain undetected and unreported. In India, sexual harassment, molestation and rape of women are common. Most of these sexual crimes are being committed by relatives and close acquaintances of the victim. There is need to increase the public awareness (to increasingly report the sexual crimes) and speedily implement the existing laws to curb this growing menace.
Last month, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi once again reiterated the need to set up a National Sex Offender Registry after a convicted sex offender allegedly confessed to raping hundreds of girls for over 10 years in New Delhi. These registries are not a novel suggestion. They have been operational in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and a few other English-speaking countries for more than a decade.
Understanding and Global examples:
Sex offender registration laws typically require offenders convicted of a sexual offence to periodically check in with law enforcement agencies, such as the police, informing them about where they are residing, their place of employment, and provide details of their physical description.
These laws often place severe restrictions on where a previously convicted sex offender can reside and work.
This in theory is meant to aid officials to track and monitor former sex offenders.
The laws in the U.S. and South Korea go even further.
They allow the public to access these records so that the community may be aware of a sex offender in their locality.
This data is generally accessed through websites that will provide you the name, physical description, address, and photo of all the sexual offenders near you.
The minister in India has vouched for a similar system in India where the public can have access to such records.
Impact on crimes:
While sex offender registration laws and public access to these records create a sense of security to parents and residents, they have failed in making any significant difference in sex crimes. Sometimes they create more harm than good.
Even in the U.S., where stringent registration laws with public access have been around for over 30 years, several independent studies arrive at the conclusion:
These registers are simply not reducing sex crimes.
A comprehensive study conducted by J.J. Prescott and J.E. Rockoff in 2010 conclude that although basic registration laws through which officials may track former offenders shows a marginal reduction in recidivism (namely, reoffending) by 1.1%, public notification laws, through which the public have full access to this data, undo this effect.
Instead result in an actual increase in reoffending. J.J. Prescott and J.E. Rockoff in their report note that, “notification laws may harden registered sex offenders, however, making them more likely to commit additional sex offences, perhaps because criminal behaviour is relatively more attractive for registered sex offenders living under a notification regime.”
The failure of these registries to show any empirical evidence of reducing crimes or reducing recidivism is significant while comparing the tremendous associated costs and damage they impose on law officials and former convicts.
With no positive outcomes from these registries, these laws disproportionately result in severe hardships to former offenders.
As a consequence of being on the register, former convicts often find it very difficult to gain meaningful employment and have very limited options in finding housing as many localities are proudly branded as ‘Sex Offender-Free Zones’.
Several studies find that because of open and free public access to these registries, former convicts often face threat, harassment and violence from other members of the community.
Their status as former sex offenders has the effect of stigmatising them for life, rendering reformation and a dignified life after prison impossible.
Juvenile crimes and disregard to laws
The most troubling aspect of Ms. Gandhi’s suggestion is that she wants to include even juveniles and persons standing on trial for sexual offences to be on the register.
The hasty proposal to include even under trial persons on the register ignores a basic consideration for civil rights of an accused person and the disproportionate impact it would have on their lives while only being accused of an offence.
Similarly, the proposal to put children on a sex offender register displays a complete lack of understanding of their rights under the Constitution and our international obligations under the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
For proposing a sex offender registry it is significant to have a look at how our sexual offences have been framed.
At present, the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 criminalises consensual sexual intercourse with minors and between minors.
Two 17-year-olds who have consensual sexual intercourse with each other can be imprisoned for a minimum term of seven years under this law if convicted.
A brief look at the cases registered under POCSO Act is sufficient to tell us that most special courts are now barraged with romantic cases instigated through complaints filed by objecting parents.
In the state of the current law, a person could possibly face the consequences of being on the register for a lifetime for having a consensual sexual relationship.
To effectively tackle the incidence of sexual offences will require a hard look at our own institutional failure in tackling these cases.
The rate of conviction for the offence of rape is at an abysmal 29% and worse still, the rate of pendency for rape cases is at a staggering 86.2% (National Crime Records Bureau, 2015).
A study conducted by the Centre for Child and the Law, NLSIU (2016) on the functioning of children’s courts in Delhi found that 67.5% of victims do not even testify against the accused.
The study further found that conviction resulted only in 16% of the child sexual abuse cases in Delhi.
With a poor conviction rate and a majority of cases still pending before courts, how would a register aid in preventing sexual offences by former convicts?
Even in the present case, where the former convict allegedly confessed to raping hundreds of girls over a period of 10 years, we must question why the investigative machinery failed completely. What happened to the complaints and investigations into these cases assuming that at least some of them registered a complaint?
Why did it take a decade for them to nab a dangerous criminal? Where is the institutional set-up and mental health evaluations to deal with violent sex offenders and pedophiles (Pedophilia or paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to children)
In the background of weak investigative and institutional machinery and overwhelming evidence showing that these sex offenders’ registries simply don’t work. The suggestion that the recent attacks in Delhi could have been prevented if a national sex offender registry had been implemented seems far-fetched and unrealistic. The Delhi attacks expose the glaring gaps in our existing systems that need to be urgently addressed before we jump to formulating new solutions. It can become another case of remedy worse than malady.
Connecting the dots:
The country and the world is suffering from a rise in crimes against women. In this light there are calls for radical solutions like a offenders’ registry. How far can these go to solve the problem? Critically analyse.
General Studies 2
India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
General Studies 3
Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Pakistan- Is it finally serious on terror?
In news: Recently, Pakistan placed Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and head of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its parent political organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), under house arrest. In addition to it, Pakistan also put JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, JuD’s front for charitable activities, on the terror watch list.
This brings forward the question if Pakistan is really serious on terror or is it a mere eye wash?
Pakistan and terror groups in Pakistan
For India, the current set of actions were not credible enough to prove ‘Pakistan’s sincerity’ to stop terror.
Besides history and LeT under scrutiny, there is Masood Azhar and JeM which have emerged as a centre stage on jihadi landscape.
They have been spearheaded 2001 Parliament attacks and recent Pathankot and Nagrota attacks and are openly organizing rallies and raising funds in Pakistan.
Though it seems like a big crackdown on terrorist organizations that target India, but in reality, such action has been initiated against Saeed even before to fulfil short-term objectives.
Later, the prosecution in Pakistan fails to build a robust case against him in a court of law. This leads to the usual cycle of house arrest, a court case, an investigation and insufficient proof leading to him getting a clean legal chit.
Today, there are no major domestic cases against Saeed; neither is there a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s terror strategy calling for action against all militant groups on Pakistani soil. So Saeed’s house arrest was a surprise.
Why the sudden change of heart?
LeT and JeM are widely regarded as Pakistan’s strategic assets against India. Yet, a crackdown on only one and at this point of time can be attributed to few reasons.
JuD named in money laundering and terror financing report.
A plenary session of the 37-member Financial Action Task Force is upcoming and it may put Pakistan back on the watch list of “high risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions” under its global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime.
Pakistan was removed from this list in 2015 but a report by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering has raised some serious objections regarding “the financial traffic of JuD”.
The travel ban imposed by US President Donald Trump on the citizens of seven Muslim majority countries has led to speculation about Pakistan being included in an extended list.
The fear of loss of face could have persuaded Pakistani generals and civilian administration to solve their differences and act jointly against a major terrorist group to signal commitment.
Change of guard
With coming of General Bajwa, it is reported that he is serious about curbing the activities of groups like LeT and JeM. But more action, especially on JeM, would be needed for those reports to carry credence.
He had also replaced the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence within days of assuming responsibilities.
The Good militant-bad militant distinction still stays in Pakistan.
There is a section within Pakistan, which demands action against all militant groups and is keen that the establishment measures all the groups with same scale.
Even the media reactions to the arrest have highlighted this point.
However, the seriousness of Pakistan to act against the JuD will depend on the legal case it builds.
Last time too, JuD and Saeed had escaped the judicial reprimand and same is expected to happen this time too as there are no visible plan of State to take on armed non-state actors.
As JuD majorly focuses on Kashmir and keeps away from any major jihadist activity on Pakistani soil, Saeed has challenged the Interior Ministry to come up with even a single FIR against his cadres or organisations.
Also, Hafiz Saeed is unlikely to protest strongly as he has alternatives to suit his trajectory. Earlier, after Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned in 2002, Saeed it appeared as Jamaat-ud-Dawa which was said to be a charity organization. This time he has already renamed JuD as ‘Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir’.
Further, as he will legally challenge the arrest, there are strong chances of a shabby trial leading to his freedom.
In response to his house arrest, public protest has begun in criticising the government for its “bowing to foreign pressure and putting a sincere Pakistani like Hafiz Saeed under house arrest” which indicates that JuD will garner more political support in upcoming times.
Unless the Pakistani state has indeed taken a U-turn and decided to take on all militant groups including the JuD, there are chances that LeT and Saeed may emerge as winner- politically as well as in fulfilling their intentions. Its reactivation by another name will serve no purpose of curbing the terror activities as well as terror financing. This might all together lead to increase in problems for Jammu and Kashmir as well as rest of India.
Connecting the dots:
Is Pakistan serious about ending terrorism on its home soil with its recent policy decision? Explain.
India still believes that ‘good militant-bad militant’ formula exists in Pakistan. What is it? What are possible actions that can be taken/preparations done by India to protect its borders?