Sex: Punishing the seller while sparing the buyer
Sex workers too have families. They support families, aged parents and disabled spouses. Rescuing them and sending them back to their villages is unlikely to help them
Two adult consenting sex workers jumped to their death from a building on Grant Road in Mumbai in April this year, when a police team started combing the building. Both of them were originally from West Bengal.
Activists fear that such incidents are likely to increase if the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 is passed by the Rajya Sabha as well.
“We don’t want social or religious morality, we want constitutional morality. Many sex workers have families and their children are getting higher and technical education. The new law could result in the ‘forced rescue’ of adults earning a livelihood,” maintains Nisha Gulur.
It also provides for a Relief and Rehabilitation Committee and Rehabilitation Fund with an initial allocation of ₹ 10 crore. It prescribes forfeiture of property used or likely to be used for the commission of an offence
The new legislation provides for stringent punishment of 10 years in jail to life imprisonment for aggravated forms of trafficking, which include buying or selling of persons for the purpose of bonded labour, bearing a child, as well as those where chemical substances or hormones are administered, and a survivor acquires life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS. Additionally, it proposes to establish a National AntiTrafficking Bureau (NATB) for coordinating, monitoring and surveillance of the cases.
It also provides for a Relief and Rehabilitation Committee and Rehabilitation Fund with an initial allocation of ₹ 10 crore. It prescribes forfeiture of property used or likely to be used for the commission of an offence. Earlier this year, the Cabinet had approved a proposal for making the National Investigation Agency the nodal authority for probing cases of human trafficking, for which the government is expected to bring a separate amendment to the NIA Act.
“We are upset as the Bill was prepared without consulting the sex workers and there is no clarity between trafficking and consenting sex work. Moreover, the Bill was not sent to the Standing Committee despite our several written representations to the Union minister of women and child development, Maneka Gandhi and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. We had sent them our critique of the Bill.