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'Change in anti-trafficking act will affect sex workers'

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Human rights activists today termed the Women and Child Development Ministry's proposed amendment to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act as a step in "backward" direction. Criminalising clients and customers, rehabilitating sex workers by sending them to rehabilitation homes under the proposed ITPA amendment is a step in the backward direction, they said. "Complete lack of transparency in amending legislations would impact the lives of people engaged in sex work and further drive it underground," Madhu Mehra, a human rights lawyer, opined. Reflecting the same concern, member of National Network of Sex Workers Shafeena Sayyad said "criminalisation of clients and customers would increase harassment and violence against sex workers." "In practice, these sections would be used by the police to interrupt, harass and extort money out of persons seen in and around brothels," another rights activist Tripti Tandon said. Referring to the WCD Ministry's proposed move to rehabilitate sex workers, member of All India Network of Sex Workers Bharati Dey said, "If the intention is to act against trafficking and rescue trafficked victims, what is the purpose of rehabilitating consenting sex workers? This will only increase the instances of abusive raids and violence faced by the sex workers." Social worker Meena Seshu emphasised that any legal frameworks that treats consenting adult sex work as violence and exploitative would drive the practice underground and make the sex worker vulnerable to violence. "It would be a setback to sex workers who are fighting for legal and societal recognition of their fundamental rights to dignity and pursuit of livelihood," she said.

First Published: Mon, February 18 2013. 00:00 IST