Should Rwanda create a sexual offenders public database?

In the US, most states restrict where registered sex offenders may live, while others restrict where the convicted offenders may work or be present. Net photo

The topic of sex offenders is usually very sensitive because of the outrage it sparks and radical arguments surrounding it. Simply put, it is a crime of touching someone in a sexual way without that person’s consent, or to physically force a person to engage in a sexual act against their will. So, with the growing number of sexual offenders, is it time we had a public sexual offenders database?

Having such a database in place will help Police keep tabs on known sex offenders, and also provide information to community members that may help them protect themselves and their children from sexual predators. I’m all for the former, and to a smaller extent, for the latter—both could reduce the crime and make communities safer. But not entirely.

The first thing we need to do is to put in place severe punishment measures. Anyone ever realised how sex offenders get away with light sentences? Secondly, we need to openly talk about how women are not sexual objects to be molested. This starts with the stares they are given on the streets, office corridors, schools…and etcetera.

Openly allowing them to be comfortable in their bodies without thinking of touching them is of paramount importance. I remember a story I read online about two kids, the boy, around 10/12 years wanted to forcefully kiss a young girl regardless of fighting back.

When quizzed, the boy said “she was supposed to be his girlfriend and he had a right to kiss her.” Reading this story, I asked myself how this young boy was being raised. What gives this young boy such entitlement to the girl’s body? The answer might lie in decayed societal beliefs of considering women as sexual objects.

Which brings me to the point of why I think a sexual offenders registry should only be made to law enforcement authorities, and this is really clear as to why they should be privy to such information. However, if the database is to be made public, it should target repeat offenders. Repeat offenders don’t deserve to live in any community.

For the redeemed, the stigma they could face may make crime more appealing, as publicly registered offenders it would be difficult to find a job, housing, or social support, hence, have less to lose if they re-offend. Imagine if the young boy (mentioned above) would be captured in a public database. His life would literally be over. There’s still time to help him.

Also, we need to invest in well-organised treatment programmes. Emphasis should be on counselling, during sentence and post-sentence. Technology is here to simplify life but we should never neglect the repercussions it might have. Therefore, we need to see if the preferred method is applicable in a given scenario and the effects it might have on everyone involved, or if there are other options which could work with less and unwanted costs to help the cause.

Did you know that some people in this country are blacklisted on the Public Labour website and can never work as civil servants again, thanks to crimes that they were convicted for? Did you know that about 200 companies are now currently listed on the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority for breaching contracts during procurement processes and some cannot work with Government for as long as five years?

These are just a few examples of crimes that are found so unacceptable that you are named and shamed. However, while I agree that not every criminal record can be made public, there are those that should be an exception.

The toll rape or defilement takes on the victim is permanent. It does not only destroy an individual but it affects anyone that is closely connected them. Some people have ended up with mental illness and their normal lives brought to a sudden halt as a result. While a corrupt official should be named and shamed, money can be recouped, but what exactly do you think can ever be done to, for instance, restore a child’s lost innocence?

There are matters of contention but to me, the issue of whether there is need for Government to create a public database of sexual offenders should never be one of them.

 You will hear some people tell you that people change. Maybe some genuinely do but according to the United States Department of Justice, re-arrest, re-conviction, and re-incarceration of former inmates after their release from prisons in 15 states, 2.5 per cent of released rapists were arrested for another rape within three years.

For those who believe in God, we are taught about giving people a second chance. That is a personal decision and the Government owes its citizens the truth and an opportunity to choose whether they want to be around these people or not.

One of the challenges that we have is that not every crime committed always ends up in the news. I want to be given an opportunity to do some quick basic research about people that I am welcoming in my home, my life and most importantly, around my child. 

We want to be sure that the people that we are entrusting our children with at the nursery school are not some man or woman who used to creep up on women and children somewhere, for instance, in the Northern Province, only for them to move to the Southern Province to start afresh.

I deserve the right to know who I am dealing with and should be given the opportunity make a conscious decision based on the information I have.

In countries like the US, laws regulating registered sex offenders vary by state. Each state has a sex offenders’ register but the length of time they remain registered ranges from five years to life.

Even more interestingly, most states restrict where registered sex offenders may live, while others restrict where the convicted offenders may work or be present. This is done to stop the offenders from hanging around schools, playgrounds or working as teachers or doctors to protect the masses.

The idea that his or her name, their photo and home address will be on the internet on a Government website, accessible to everyone seeking to protect themselves or their loved ones will perhaps give some potential offenders reason to pause and think.

The statistics of sexual offenses in Rwanda go higher and higher every year. The culture of not speaking out against some of these crimes has cost us a lot. It will take a long time to make our communities open up about such crimes. As we wait for this to change, there is need for measures that are out of the box.