Violence and sexual crimes against women and the sexual abuse of children are present in every country and culture globally, there are no exceptions, and all the indicators are that they are rising. Pakistan has seen several high-profile cases in recent years where women and children have died. India has likewise seen an increase and it has now announced the launch of its first national register of sex offenders in an effort to stem the tide of offences against women and children. The new database will only be available to the law-enforcement agencies not to the general public and initially comprises 440,000 names of those convicted of rape, gang rape, sex crimes against children and sexual harassment, a very broad spectrum of offending.
A list of names and details of an offence or conviction is not in and of itself a deterrent. Deterrence lies in how the list is used. Many other countries have similar registers, and they are a proactive tool. In the UK, the Sex Offenders Register is searched whenever a person applies for a job that involves working with children, the check is mandatory and automatically flags inappropriate applicants.
There are risks attached to the creation of such registers particularly in countries such as Pakistan and India where confidentiality is a poorly understood concept and corruption rules the roost, but the benefits overall outweigh the disadvantages. There is no shortage of templates to draw from as well as sound advice, and anything that raises awareness of crimes against women and children has to be worth time, effort and money. Creating a sex offenders register in Pakistan will be difficult but not impossible, likewise anything that improves police and law enforcement agency practices is also a sound investment. A small step on a long road.