Sunday, December 5, 2021

Botswana creates child sexual offenders public register

In the not-too-distant future, the High Court and magistrate courts will have an additional official document in their cabinets: a two-page “Form 7” that will contain relevant details about the offender who, immediately upon conviction, shall be registered by the social worker handling the case. Details about the child abuser shall relate to his/her conviction record, places where the offence(s) occurred, place of residence and work, occupation, next of kin and relationship with victim. The Child Protection Regulations, which have just been published in the Government Gazette, say that Form 7 shall be kept at all magistrates’ courts and the High Court “to ensure immediate registration of all offenders.”

Once s/he has filled out Form 7, the social worker shall send it to the Director responsible for children’s affairs for updating. Those who wish to consult, inspect or make a copy of or obtain an extract from the register, shall pay a fee of P100. Child care institutions that wish to engage the services of any person shall fill out Form 8 and would be required to ascertain that the name of the prospective employee is not in the child abusers’ register. A child care institution that employs a child abuser shall have its licence revoked and where it is government-owned, its head shall be guilty of the offence of neglect of child and be liable to punishment.

Registered child abusers may have their names removed from the register by applying to the Director in writing after 10 years from the date of conviction, having received and responded well to a defined therapeutic treatment from a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist. Having treated the child abuser, any of the latter professionals shall complete a detailed report of the progress and response to treatment of the applicant.

Standards for child protection organisations stipulate that a service provider, organisations which provide a place of safety or a school of industry shall not engage the services of someone who has been convicted as a child abuser. These organisations shall have gardens for children’s use, at least one playground as well as adequately furnished entertainment areas, therapy rooms and study rooms. Professional staff shall include social workers, psychologists, child development specialists, psychiatrists and other relevant professionals. The regulations stipulate that no funding shall be accepted from any organisation or person associated with or suspected to be engaged in child abuse or child exploitation.

While regulations may seem stringent, they pale in comparison to those of the United States where, in some administrative districts, convicted paedophiles are required to display a yard sign that reads “A child molester lives here.” The regulations will be enforced by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

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