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Steps to protect vulnerable groups from sex offenders

Written by Dale Hes

Gender-Based Violence

It is a scary reality that sex offenders could be anywhere. They could be living next door, working at the local supermarket or sharing a taxi with you every morning.

In addition to the many steps taken by government to clamp down on violence against women, children and vulnerable groups in recent months, President Cyril Ramaphosa is also seeking to ensure that the names of these sex offenders are known to the public.

This will be achieved by making the National Register of Sex Offenders (NRSO) public knowledge.

What is the NRSO?

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development said the NRSO was established as an Act of Parliament in 2007. It lists the names of criminals who have been found guilty of sexual offences against children and mentally disabled people.

According to the department, currently the register gives employers in places such as schools, crèches and hospitals the right to check if a person they are hiring is fit to work with children or mentally disabled people. The register seeks to protect these vulnerable groups from sex offenders, and also ensures that convicted offenders are not allowed to adopt children or apply for foster care.

Who can access the register currently?

According to the department access to information in the NRSO is not open to the public and must be kept confidential. Information is only available to those who are entitled to apply for a clearance certificate. These include any employers in the public or private sector who work with children or mentally disabled persons. So if you are an employer at a school, crèche, hospital or similar environment, then you can apply for a clearance certificate from the Registrar of the NRSO.

Why is government seeking to make the NRSO public?

President Ramaphosa has made strong moves towards strengthening the justice system to clamp down on violence against women, children and vulnerable groups. Making the NRSO public will allow any person to check the backgrounds of people who spend time around their children or relatives.

"We are going to overhaul and modernise the national register of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) offenders provided for in the Sexual Offences Act to ensure it is effective in combating GBV," he said Ramaphosa said.

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