The home ministry launched the nation’s first National Registry of Sexual Offenders on Thursday, alongside an online portal ‘cybercrime.gov.in’ that will allow people to report complaints related to child pornography, child sexual abuse material, or other sexually explicit material anonymously. The complaints received by this portal will be handled by the respective state police authorities, and the Registry is an online database that stores the profile and personal details of convicted offenders and those accused of stalking, rape and offences listed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The database will be maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which will also track whether state police has been updating the records on time or not.
India is now only the ninth country in the world to have a national database on sexual offenders. However, as the unit-level National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 data shows, there is a severe case of under-reporting of such crimes, when we compare NHFS data with that of crimes recorded by the police, and compiled by the NCRB. The NFHS is a nationally representative survey covering nearly 7,00,000 women. Between 2015 and 2016, detailed questions on sexual and physical violence were asked to a sub-sample of 79,729 women, and from these accounts, it was found that only a minuscule portion of incidents of sexual violence is reported to the police—an estimated 99.1% of sexual violence cases are not reported. The reporting of these crimes also suffers from a low conviction rate (the conviction rate for all crimes against women stands at a measly 19% across India, compared with an average conviction rate of 47% for all crimes, according to NCRB 2016 data) and just under a third of the reported rape cases in 2016 were pending investigation by the police at the end of that year. Thus, while the maintenance of the registry and launch of the online portal is praiseworthy, effective checks against crimes, of all kinds, perpetrated against women require a lot more.