BHAWNA ATMARAM

Sex attacks show no sign of stopping. Perusing the newspapers on a daily basis bears testimony to the depravity of individuals who brazenly sexually assault others, disregarding age or gender. Whether one is a baby, a toddler or elderly, a family member, a spouse or disabled, rapists do not discriminate. The tragedy lies in the fact that the trauma

BHAWNA ATMARAM

undergone by the victim stays for a lifetime. The scars are both physical and psychological. Some victims are also callously murdered following sexual assaults. The judicial system therefore needs to be victim-centred to protect past and potential victims.
In California, United States, a law was enacted in 1996, whereby the California Department of Justice is mandated to notify the public about sex offenders. This law is referred to as ‘Megan’s Law’ following the murder of seven year-old Megan Kanka by a convicted paedophile who had moved across the street. Other such laws have been passed in other states where convicted rapists have to sign a Sex Offender Register. In England and Wales, ‘Sarah’s Law’ which is known as the child sex disclosure scheme has been introduced following the rape and murder of eight year-old Sarah Payne in 2000 by a convicted paedophile who served only four years in prison after having previously abducted and sexually assaulted another eight year-old girl.

The Government of Mauritius is coming up with a Children’s Bill soon. Why not introduce a National Sex Offender Register in Mauritius? This would certainly help to protect the population from rapists, many of whom have re-offended following their release. Children and teenagers are extremely vulnerable and social media applications are being used as grooming tools. It is of urgency to protect them as well as the population at large from these criminals.

Here are a few proposals:
▪︎Ideally, due to the heinous nature of their crimes, rapists should be sentenced to life imprisonment. The law should be amended accordingly. The victims go through a lifetime of sufferings. It is a real life sentence. Trauma is never-ending.

▪︎If the law is not amended to force rapists to serve life in prison, they should be made to sign a register every day at the regional police station. They must not be allowed to change their address without notifying and receiving approval from the authorities. They should also be made to wear electronic tags at all times to allow authorities to track their whereabouts. They should not be given the permission to travel abroad. If someone feels a genuine concern that a particular individual could be a convicted sex offender, that person should be allowed to check the Sex Offender Register after making a formal request. In the case of paedophiles, they should additionally have no right to live near schools, playgrounds among others.

▪︎Chemical castration should be administered to convicted rapists.

▪︎Sex Education as from primary school level should be revamped and teach children about sexuality, consent and keeping safe. Parents should also be involved; thus breaking the chain of taboo in our country. There should be ongoing sensitisation.

▪︎Appointment of more school psychologists to help young victims or those who feel threatened.

▪︎More counsellors should be available to help sex attack survivors.

▪︎More check-ups by social workers in vulnerable areas.

▪A 24/7 hotline for victims of sexual assault, operated by licensed counsellors.

▪︎Employers should be thorough when checking the Certificate of Character of job applicants, especially those who could find themselves alone with others.
These are a few practical, non-exhaustive measures which could help protect the population from sexual predators. It is high time to focus on a more victim-centred approach.