Anti- trafficking Bill draft says soliciting in public not a crime
The third draft of the antitrafficking Bill released by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development is sending shockwaves across the country. Under the new law, brothel keeping, detaining anyone ( eg. withholding passport, work permit, other documents, payments, savings, jewellery, child or clothes) and pimping will no more be a crime. It also does away with the clear, specific and elaborate provision against soliciting in public places as it exists in the current law ITPA Sec 8( b).
“Pimps will be able to solicit anywhere in public places and offer prostitute’s services to anyone. Hence, it will no longer be a crime under the new law which also does away with provisions against carrying out prostitution in the vicinity of schools, colleges, hospitals and temples and places of worship,” an aghast anti- trafficking expert Dr Pravin Patkar told dna. He added: “Carrying out prostitution in a residential building at public annoyance will no more be a crime under the new law. Shady characters visiting your building will not face any legal consequences.”
Patkar whose organisation - Prerana has been working with sex workers communities since 1986 to end intergenerational prostitution also dismissed the draft’s claim that it is the ‘ first single comprehensive law against human trafficking.’ “This is wholly incorrect! The draft merely shifts the definition of trafficking from its existing place in Sec 370 of the Indian Penal Code ( IPC) after distorting and making it ineffective. It is silent on trafficking for surrogacy, bride trafficking, organised beggary and organ trade, except for listing them under explanation of forms of exploitation in Sec 1. It drops prostitution as a form of exploitation under the definition of trafficking,” said Patkar.
However, Patkar isn’t alone. Anti- trafficking expert - Meena Seshu of the National Network of Sex Workers ( NNSW) too, has raised an alarm over what they call “glaring anomalies,” even in the third draft, and, expressed shock and surprise at how glaring mistakes with far reaching implications have been allowed to creep in, despite numerous suggestions sent in by several NGOs and experts working in the area. “Indian laws continue to be centred around trafficking for sexual exploitation and abolishing of sex work,” complained Seshu.
“A sizable number of persons through fraud, deceit and coercion get trafficked for forced labour in various areas, where people are forced to work for a pittance and in terrible work conditions. A significant number of poor people get duped for organ transplantation. Why is the draft bill silent on provisions for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of those coerced into forced labour ( domestic work, working in zari units, cracker factories, brick kilns and agricult u re ) o r f or org a n transplantation?” questioned Patkar.