Sex workers, lawyers seek to amend language of anti-trafficking Bill

• Sex workers and lawyers have expressed concern over the language of the anti-trafficking Bill, set to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

• They say the proposed law has the potential to criminalise all adult sex work in the absence of a clear distinction between the victims of sexual exploitation or human trafficking and persons who voluntarily opt to provide sex to make a living.

• The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) has written to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu demanding that the Bill be sent to the Standing Committee of the Upper House.

• The NNSW has also urged a “meaningful dialogue” with the communities affected by the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), 2018, Bill.

Key highlights

• Voluntary adult sex work is not illegal in India under certain circumstances, such as when a woman provides the service in her own home without any solicitation.

• The primary law on trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

• The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1986 punishes offences including procuring a person for the purpose of prostitution, living on the earnings of prostitution of another person and keeping or using a brothel.

• But enforcement agencies often confuse trafficking with voluntary sex work and abuse the provisions of the law to evict sex workers from their houses.

• It is this experience that has stoked fears among sex workers about the new Bill, which is aimed at curbing “physical and other forms of trafficking”.

• They are urging lawmakers to revisit the language used in the Bill and to ensure that the legislation provides built-in safeguards.

• Their key demand is that the Bill should explicitly exclude adult persons voluntarily engaged in sex work.

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

Prelims level: Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), 2018, Bill

Mains level: Human Trafficking and other associated crimes.

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