Sex Trade Curbs in India Will Increase Violence, Exploitation and HIV/AIDS Rate

A top HIV/AIDS Indian official and a Cabinet minister on Monday strongly criticized the Central government’s plan to punish clients visiting sex workers in a move to curb prostitution. The Bill to amend the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) was moved in Parliament in 2006 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development headed by Renuka Chowdhury.

Director general of National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) K Sujatha Rao and Labor and Employment minister Oscar Fernandes said the amendments proposing to put clients of sex workers behind bars and imposing a fine of up to Rs 50,000 for those visiting brothels, would in no way curb the sex trade but only push it underground. That, in turn would make it more difficult to track down sex workers, who are most vulnerable to contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.

A recent report by the world’s first independent commission on AIDS in Asia-Pacific, headed by the Indian PM’s chief economic advisory C Rangarajan, shows that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia is mainly fuelled by men who go for paid sex. According to the report 75 million men in Asia visit sex workers, 10 million women sell sex to these men.

On the day Rangarajan submitted the report, I had called for legalizing sex trade, Union minister Fernandes said.

According to Union minister Fernandes sex trade could never be curbed and would remain till humanity existed. He said he proposed to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh soon and discuss a balanced approach to the issue. Fernandes added: "Even the Bible makes a reference to sex trade. Reforming society will be the best approach rather than trying to curb the sex trade.

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