Major flaws in Immoral Traffic Amendment bill, say activists

Protesting against the proposed amendments in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, volunteers of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) took out a rally on Tuesday through the red light areas in Budhwar Peth and Shukrawar Peth, claiming "criminalisation" of customers would make a negative impact on the livelihoods of sex workers.

The NGOs included Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh, Akhil Budhwar Peth Devdasi Sanstha and DISHA – Deep Griha Society.

Tejaswi Sevekari, Director of Saheli, said there are major flaws in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2006, which is due for cabinet approval in the coming parliamentary monsoon session.

These amendments were proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in response to the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee and subsequent deliberations by a group of ministers to strengthen the currently standing Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. "As per the amendments, customers of the sex workers would be arrested. A first time customer would be punished with three months imprisonments and a fine of Rs 5,000. Such an action against customers would take away the bread and butter of the sex workers who are stuck in the prostitution business because of genuine problems," said Sevekari. "It would also force the prostitution industry further underground. Ultimately, the efforts to reach the sex workers with needed programming such as advocacy and HIV/AIDS information would be hampered," she added. Sevekari also said the amendment include mandatory rehabilitation schemes according to which the rescued women would remain in reformation homes for seven years. "This is denying the right to autonomy to these victims," she said.Meanwhile, volunteers of the NGOs performed street plays in the red light areas. Avinash Chakranarayan of DISHA, said that street plays are raising community awareness about the proposed amendments. The campaign is being carried out nationwide for the last four months. The NGOs working on the issue would be filing a petition seeking improvements in the proposed amendments, a copy of which will be given to the cabinet ministers, it was stated.

Express News Service

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