With more than 300 sexual assault cases filed in Chennai under POCSO Act in the last three years, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to maintain a register of child sexual offenders. A Ganesh Nadar reports.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com.
Since the implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in 2012, in the last three years alone 490 cases have been filed in Chennai under this act.
Out of these more than 300 were sexual assault cases. Social workers say the cases were always there, it is just that they are now being reported.
To prevent child molesters from getting away, just as the central government maintains a register of sexual offenders, the Tamil Nadu government too has decided to maintain a register of child sexual offenders.
This register will be maintained by the state's social welfare department and the home department, the latter meaning the police.
Tamil Nadu even has a newly formed police wing for the protection of women and children, in Chennai, and the first deputy commissioner of this wing is H Jayalakshmi.
The Tamil Nadu government has issued an G.O to form and maintain this register and concerned officials are confident that it will be up and working in three months.
DCP Jayalakshmi has under her the “all women police stations” in the city and she also has one child welfare police officer in every police station.
These special officers help her keep children safe in the city. When any case involving children comes up in any police station in the city, the welfare officer will be put in charge of the child. The victim will be taken by the officer to the child protection unit of the social welfare department, or if the accused is also a juvenile he is taken to the Juvenile Board. This is done after the case is filed.
The cops already have a list of child molesters with them which only needs to be fed into the register. As of now both the convicted and accused will be in the register, the latter until proven innocent.
For those who think there is a difference between a young child who doesn’t know she or he is being molested and a grown up child, say around 14-17 years of age who might indulge in romantic sex, DCP Jayalakshmi is firm in her reply: “There is no question of consent when the victim is a child. You cannot argue that she said yes, it is still a crime. The law doesn’t consider consensual sex where the victim is below 18."
As of now they have decided that the register will be shared with the education department who in turn will inform all schools about it. This is to make sure that child sexual offenders don’t get employed in any school.
Once they are convicted the offenders' names will be published and made available to the public. They cannot claim human rights violation.
DCP Jayalakshmi told Rediff.com, “Once convicted we will always keep an eye on them. After they complete their term in prison we will continue to track them. We have a column “Currently doing” that mentions in which we state the person is working and living in.”
They will also inform the concerned police station when he moves into their jurisdiction.
The police will have access to this register and anyone who gets arrested for crimes against children, will be immediately tagged if his name is already on the register.
The register of offenders, once it is ready, will finally be linked to the national register of sex offenders.
"We have paedophiles on the prowl but with this register the chances of a serial offender is very slim," say the police.
R Vidyasagar, former child protection specialist with Unicef, told Rediff.com, “In the last three years there are more than 2000 cases of child abuse pending in Tamil Nadu. Not even 100 have been convicted.
"There has to be a mechanism where this register's information can be disseminated in the locality where the molester is present. Only when the public knows that a certain person is a paedophile will people be careful around him.
"Only the police and the education department knowing about it does help but it is not holistic. It will be a success only if it is a public document.
"Moreover, the government has made it a capital offence which is not really helping. Now the criminal not only tries to murder the victim he also murders the mother, the father, the witnesses, as we have seen in Uttar Pradesh.”