Today the Firstpost carried a news piece on the decision of the Himachal Pradesh government to publish a sex offender list. As per the report, the state’s police will maintain a register of sexual offenders and their names will be displayed on its official website. Recently, in an article for the ‘Arena‘, by The Hindu Centre, I questioned the presumption that universalising information would reduce crime. The article seeks to throw light on the legality of sex-offender lists and explores the social impact such lists may have.
An excerpt from the article is provided below.
The demand for making sex offender lists public stems from the desire to identify and protect oneself from likely threats. India’s parliamentarians have argued for such comprehensive list of sex offenders to be made accessible by all. However, public dissemination of a person’s crime record and personally identifiable information, such as details of address and social network accounts, may infringe an offender’s fundamental right to privacy. It may also run the risk of treating different categories of offenders similarly.
When sex offender registries were first instituted in the US, the law enforcement agencies were required to keep the information private. However, subsequently the law was amended to require mandatory disclosure of information on a website accessible by all. Studies have revealed that the publication of sex offender lists have had little negative impact on the rate of crime and recidivism. According to some of these studies, public access to the lists increases the likelihood of repeat offences by convicts.
The entire article may be accessed here.