Centre to tighten visa norms to bar child sex offenders

New Delhi, October 23: The Centre is set to soon make it mandatory for foreigners planning a trip to the country to declare past criminal records, including any conviction or involvement in a case of child sexual abuse. The move follows many instances of offenders wanted in their homeland fleeing to India and exploiting children here.
Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had written last year to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking a revision in the visa format to ensure that foreign nationals with a prior record of child sexual abuse were barred from travel to India.
On Monday, Gandhi posted on Twitter that the Ministry of Home Affairs had accepted the suggestion. “It has now been decided that an appropriate questionnaire and a declaration will be incorporated in the visa application form which will have to be filled up by visa applicants/foreign nationals,” Gandhi said in the tweet.
The Union Minister added that her request was based on “complaints of serial child sexual abuse offenders managing to visit India”.
The questionnaire will seek details about convictions in a court of law, any role in child abuse, trafficking of humans and drugs, crimes against women, as well economic offences or financial frauds, according to sources. Applicants will also have to state whether they have been involved in cybercrimes or acts of violence such as terrorist activities, genocide or political killings.
“The government’s decision sends out a strong message to those planning to travel to India with the intent of sexually abusing children and will ensure that the country is no more considered a honey pot by child sex offenders,” said Vidya Reddy from ‘Tulir – The Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse’. “The move will also empower the authorities to take action against those applicants who make a false declaration about their criminal antecedents,” said Reddy, who was one of the activists who had urged Gandhi to push for the imposition of stringent visa norms to curb child sex offenders from reaching India.
Travelling child sex offenders or TCSOs are individuals who travel to foreign countries in order to abuse children.
There have been several instances in the past where foreign nationals wanted in their home country for child sexual offences had fled to India. These include Belgian national Jozef Achtergael, British citizens Raymond Varley and Paul Meekin, Frenchman Eric Martin, American psychiatrist Alan Horowitz and Canadian national Ernest Macintosh. (Courtesy: The Hindu)