1st July, 2008, National Day of Action against ITPA Amendments

"Kill the Bill"

Sex workers, women’s groups and AIDS NGOs cross the country will come together to demand withdrawal of Amendments proposed to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 2006 (ITPA).

Enacted in 1956, the ITPA criminalizes all aspects of commercial sex without making sex work an offence per se. Since, the Act has been amended twice – in 1976 and 1986. In 50 years of its implementation, ITPA has caused severe repression of sex workers while failing to prevent human trafficking.

Changes to the ITPA were first mooted in June 2005, when the Department of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, proposed to decriminalize soliciting and create a new offence of trafficking in persons. The Bill was sent to a Group of Ministers (GoM), after Renuka Chowdhury, then Minister for Tourism raised objections.

Post GoM deliberations, new amendments were proposed, which included, for the first time, penalty for visiting brothels. This provision was vehemently opposed by sex workers for scuttling livelihood and compromising health and safety.

Despite protests, in May 2006, the ITPA Amendment Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha. A Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) reviewed the Bill & suggested wider reforms including a revamp of the entire Act. Last year, Ministry of Women and Child Development proposed further revisions, ignoring key recommendations of the PSC.

In August 2007, the Cabinet referred the revised Amendments to a GoM.

This GoM has now concluded its deliberations without reaching consensus. No significant changes appear to have been incorporated in Official Amendments to the ITPA Amendment Bill, 2006, which are expected to come up for Cabinet approval before the monsoon session of Parliament.

The ITPA Amendment Bill seeks to:

* Bring consensual sex work under criminal law

* Criminalise poverty induced sex work as trafficking

* Punish clients visiting brothels

* Allow lower ranking Police to arrest sex workers and raid brothels

* Detain sex workers in ‘corrective’ institutions for seven years

The ITPA Amendment Bill fails to:

* Support survivors of trafficking

* Protect sex workers against violence & abuse

* Promote prevention of HIV

Protest actions planned in:

* Bangalore: Public Rally from Chikka Lalbagh to Mysore Bank Circle

* Baroda: Demonstration at Gandhi Gruh

* Hyderabad: Meeting with State Legislators Forum

* Kolkata: Rally from College Square to Esplanade East

* Mumbai: Demonstration at Horniman Cirlcle, Fort

* Pune: Mock protest and march from Budhwar Peth

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