Why the NCW’s proposal to legalise prostitution in India is flawed

BY DR PRAVIN PATKAR – PUBLISHED IN THE DNA INDIA

National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Lalita Kumarmangalam’s proposal to legalise prostitution and the comments thereon have a thing in common, inaccurate understanding of the problem and its solution. Her medicine is deadlier than the disease, especially when the civilised world is fighting human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Naïve supporters of the policy appear to be misled by the magical term ‘legal’ (like ‘development’). Tomorrow they may also support legalisation of rape believing that now onwards rapes will be legal and therefore proper.

A person above the age of 18 years, selling his/her body for sex against money or kind to another person of the opposite sex (the uncertainty on IPC Section-377 is temporarily over, with the Supreme court upholding it.) in his/her private premises (a privately-owned premise is not necessarily private), 200 meters away from a place of religious worship, a hospital, an educational institution or any place notified by the government (Sec-7) is not a crime under any Indian laws including The Indian Penal Code-1860 or The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act- 1956. The Indian law bans the acts of trafficking, procuring, detaining, pimping, lending a premise for carrying on prostitution for running a brothel. Soliciting in public places for prostitution is punishable (Sec-8) but a woman arrested under Sec-7 or Sec-8 is not to be punished but to be given a chance of rehabilitation at the state’s cost (Sec-10). In short, the Indian law aims to punish the exploiters like madams, pimps, traffickers, customers, and other partners aiding the exploitative sex trade but not the prostitute woman. By legalising the trade, would the state decriminalise the offences of trafficking, procuring and detaining girls and young women, brothel-keeping or pimping? If the offence of soliciting in public is scrapped from the lawbook, then there will be pimps and madams approaching young boys and girls right outside the gates of schools and colleges, luring them with money, expensive electronic gadgets or foreign tours to join the sex trade. Parents and teachers will helplessly witness this as they will be arrested for not allowing the pimp to carry out their legal business. Should this legal position be rejected?

If the government wishes to serve the victims of prostitution, what stops it from doing what the small civil society organisations have done best? Aren’t these women the citizens of this country? Haven’t the High Courts and the Supreme Court from time to time upheld the prostituted women’s constitutional legal and human rights? Does the NCW think that to assist a rape victim, the rape must first be licensed?

The origins of the women’s emancipation movement is aptly attributed to the struggle of Josephine Butler against the draconian British law ‘Dangerous Diseases Act 1865’ which was the main expression of legalisation. It caused public outcry in Britain and its colonies between 1865 and 1885 when it was finally repealed as it was seen as an anti-women instrument leading to excessive power abuse by the health officials and police. An indispensable component of legalisation is compulsory periodic medical testing (CPMT) justified to curb sexually transmitted infections. Clinically speaking, initial tests for a person with such an infection may turn out to be negative, if his infection is fresh. This is because of the window period. So a person holding a certificate of negativity could still spread the infection. The CPMT creates a false sense of security in the client who throws caution to the wind and indulges in unsafe sex. STIs/HIV infections actually increase under legalisation.

Under legalisation, would the state issue licenses to the children (currently > 40% of the victims), the HIV positive victims (> 50% of the victims), the illegal migrants and trafficked aliens, mostly the Bangladeshis? If not, where will they all go if not underground? If the government wants to rehabilitate them, then who has stopped the government from doing so right away? Everyone in the country except the daroga (the police) knows where to find these women. In countries that have legalised the sex trade, two layers of prostitution have emerged – a very thin slice of registered legal activities and a huge chunk of illegal activities where women become more vulnerable and suffer extreme exploitation as they are forced to go underground.

Men’s confidence in assaulting any woman goes up when they experience that buying the sexuality of some women is legally supported and risk-free. All they need to do is create vulnerabilities and keep the money ready. If in spite of the law, millions are getting trafficked and over 40 million are currently living the life of sex slaves, why would the crime go down with liberalisation of the law? It is like saying no one will fail if the exams are scrapped.

As legalisation will mean keeping many registers, filing returns, paying taxes and greasing 10 more palms, the sex traders have rejected legalisation. Only the pharmaceuticals and government health babus still demand legalisation, even after knowing its futility.

Dr. Pravin Patkar is co-founder director at Prerana and adjunct professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. 

Child trafficking: Delhi cops not cooperating in raids

1888877_10152716836809123_6359657859865378037_oPUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh police team, which is in New Delhi to crackdown on trafficking racket, has accused Delhi police of not cooperating with further investigation to find the main accused involved in trafficking of children.

State police, in a series of raids, had busted a racket on Wednesday arresting four accused and rescued ten children including girls in Delhi. According to police officials, Delhi police barred Chhattisgarh police team when it wanted to raid the house of Guddu- the kingpin of trafficking, who is at large.

“Guddu’s house is located in Delhi’s Subhash Nagar police jurisdiction. But when the SHO Ram Mehar was contacted for cooperation in raiding the house, he denied saying that police from other state couldn’t do such investigation and in case they violated rules, he would take action against them,” an official on condition of anonymity said.

The official added that the team was asked to take permission from sub-divisional magistrate for conducting raids. In its investigation, TOI found that police teams from Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam were trying to reach Subhash Nagar in search of Guddu who was the main accused for trafficking of over 10,000 children. But Subhash Nagar police weren’t co-operating.

According to Ravi Kant, a supreme court lawyer, “Any investigating officer asking support from inter state police at their jurisdiction cannot be denied assistance. Any resistance should be strictly taken into consideration by ministry of home affairs.”

Human trafficking victims in India need greater legal support

Brick workersPUBLISHED BY THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

LONDON, Nov 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Trafficking victims in India need more legal support to pursue cases against their perpetrators, while the country’s police must understand that bonded and forced labour are also crimes, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Freedom Fund said although illegal, trafficking is widespread across India while perpetrators go unpunished and many victims are unable to obtain justice and compensation.

India is home to more than 14 million victims of human trafficking, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, which found India had the greatest number of slaves of 167 countries.

Nick Grono, CEO of Freedom Fund, the world’s first private donor fund dedicated to ending modern slavery, said human trafficking was a massively profitable business that needed to be “dealt with as a criminal enterprise”.

Modern slavery is worth more than $150 billion a year in profits for human traffickers worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization.

“It means using the law effectively to challenge the economic model that supports slavery,” Grono told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the TrustWomen conference.

“If you can find effective approaches which make a difference in India, then you can also make a huge impact on the overall scale of the problem globally.”

The report found that while hundreds of NGOs across India work on combating trafficking, only a few are able to pursue legal cases through to trial on behalf of victims.

This was due to funding restrictions, as money tends to be directed to non-legal victim assistance instead of legal work, longevity of cases, which can last for years, and the challenges of operating in an overstretched criminal justice system.

WHAT CONSTITUTES TRAFFICKING?

New anti-trafficking laws in India, ratified in May 2011, expanded the definition of trafficking and increased penalties, but confusion as to their interpretation and scope persists, the report said.

Several NGOs have said that while the new laws are being used for “traditional” trafficking offences, it is difficult to get police to register bonded labour cases or cases that do not involve movement of the victim.

“Historically, the Indian authorities have thought of trafficking only as sex trafficking, so it’s important to broaden the definition to include forced labour, bonded labour, and children being forced to work in mines,” Grono said.

The report also said that victims who press charges against perpetrators face harassment, violence and social stigma from their communities.

Citing the example of a 15-year-old Indian girl who was kidnapped, raped, and sold to a brothel, before escaping and filing a complaint with the help of an NGO, Grono said victims and officials “must realise the law is a powerful tool”.

“If you enforce and reinforce the law, and have cases that succeed and set precedents, then you can change the mindset across the country,” Grono said.

Among its recommendations, the report called for direct funding for NGOs to engage lawyers and pay for witness protection, expanded pro bono networks, and increased collaboration between anti-trafficking organisations.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, editing by Alisa Tang.)

Bengal tops UN list of missing kids, Women

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KOLKATA: More than 13,000 women and children from Bengal went untraceable in 2011. Where did they go? Were they abducted? Were they sold for money? Are they still alive? None has an answer. The year before, around 28,000 women and children went missing and 19,000 of them remained untraceable.

Missing women and children are ever increasing numbers in government files and reports by various organizations. But for their families, the hope never dies. they are lives, dearer than their own.

The Barui (name changed) family of Madhyamgram spent sleepless nights when their 16-year-old daughter did not contact them for more than six months. Last year, a neighbour took her along with him to Burdwan promising her a get her a governess’ job at a doctor’s house in Burdwan. Never could her mother and brother imagine that she would land up in a dingy hotel in Ahmedabad where she will be forced into prostitution.

The girl was lucky enough to get a chance to call her brother after six months. Her brother got in touch with the local police, who sent a team and conducted a joint raid with the Ahmedabad police. But not all are lucky like this girl.

The recent report of United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) titled ‘Anti Human Trafficking, 2013′ revealed that out of over 19,000 women and children reported missing in West Bengal in 2011, only 6,000 could be traced.

The report, currently with the Union home ministry, gives the number of women and children went missing between 2009 and 2011. Bengal, with a huge porous international border (2,217 kms with Bangladesh, 92 kms with Nepal and 175 kms with Bhutan)

tops the list. From Jalpaiguri in north to North and South 24 Parganas in south Bengal almost all districts of the state are vulnerable to trafficking.

On the northern side districts like Darjeeling, North and South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar and Malda having international borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan are identified as trafficking prone. The districts of North and South 24 Parganas are other vulnerable areas prone to trafficking on the southern side.

“The prevalence is highest in three districts in Bengal, including Murshidabad, North and South 24-Parganas. It mostly poverty-driven and can only be stopped with a large-scale livelihood programmes,” a senior IPS officer who was closely associated with an anti-trafficking drive in the state, said. “In 2001, number of missing children in West Bengal was 368 whereas in 2010 the figure was 8,599. In 2010 the number of missing women from Bengal stood at 6,514, compared to only 196 in 2001 the number of missing women was 196 whereas in,” the report said.

“Natural disasters leading to poverty and a general condition of hunger are two major reasons. Lack of awareness and declining value system are other factors,” said Manabendra Mandal, director of Socio-Legal Aid Research and Training Center. “The figures quoted by UNODC seems lower than the actual as they are based on police records. But in several cases these are not reported,” Mandal said.

Children and women from Bengal are mostly trafficked to Delhi, Mumbai and Pune, revealed the study. After this the destinations are Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. Some new destinations that have been identified are Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Haridwar, the report found after ten months of intensive consultations with various government and non-government stakeholders.

“The challenge lies in getting it reported when a victim is being trafficked. In order to reach out to people, we want to promote the reporting of cases of missing children through cellphones,” said Manabendra Nath Ray, deputy programme director, Save The Children, India. “To report a missing child or sighting of an unaccompanied child, a member of the public will call a dedicated number to report the case,” he said.

Shakti Vahini, one of the NGOs active in trafficking issues, felt that CID has been able to increase tracing of trafficked victims. The United nations office points out that despite legal provisions there has been increasing reports of women being trafficked into prostitution in the name of domestic workers or stage performers in Middle East countries. Illegal recruitment agencies are very active in the North East, North Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra.

Delhi court upholds sex worker’s dignity, jails rapists

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Four men who raped a Rwandan woman refugee in Delhi just weeks before the brutal December 16 gang rape shook the Capital have been found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty of 10 years in jail by a Delhi court.

The men, in their defence, had claimed the woman was a prostitute and an illegal immigrant who had falsely implicated them to find an excuse to stay on in the country. The court, however, said their argument “deserves to be rejected outright”.

During her cross-examination, the woman said she previously worked as a prostitute. However, the judge said it was irrelevant to the case.

“Simply because the victim worked as a sex worker before the incident in question doesn’t confer any right upon anyone to violate her dignity,” additional sessions judge Kaveri Baweja said.

The court further noted that DNA evidence found on the convicts left no doubt there were physical relations between them and the rape survivor, adding “it is not the claim of the accused that the prosecutrix entered into sexual relations with the accused voluntarily”.

“This is a good judgment. The ministry of women and child has already clarified that no action needs to be taken against foreign nationals who may have been brought here and forced into trafficking. It’s good that the court has reinforced this stand,” Ravi Kant, president of NGO Shakti Vahini that works for gender equality, told HT.

The convicts Deepak, Praveen, Vikas and Ashok Ekka — all Delhi residents — were sentenced to 10 years in jail for gang-rape and abduction.

They were also ordered to pay a compensation of Rs. 59,000 to the rape survivor. According to the rape survivor’s statement, she was walking towards Gandhi Nagar around 7pm on December 1, 2012 when three men in a car grabbed her.

She was then drugged, brutally beaten and raped in the moving car before she lost consciousness. She woke up naked and bleeding on the banks of the Yamuna. Her clothes, wallet and money were later recovered from the homes of the accused.

NCW set to propose legalisation of sex trade, Centre expresses displeasure

IBN LIVE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS3MM_W635k

New Delhi: The National Commission for Women (NCW) is set to propose legalisation of sex trade to a committee appointed by the Supreme Court but according to sources the Women & Child Development ministry isn’t in favour the idea.

Ever since the news of the National Commission for Women’s deciding to propose legalizing sex trade before a Supreme Court constituted panel, a debate has been raging. In the dark dingy lanes of Delhi’s infamous red light area, GB road, it’s always been business as usual.

It’s unclear how many of these women opt into the flesh trade… and how many are forced into it by others – But an overwhelming majority seemed to back the idea of legalising prostitution.

“If it’s legalised then we won’t get harrased by police..we would have the rights to file a complaint against a customer ,” said a sex worker but there’s also a huge segment against this, “traffickers were get emboldened – rehabilitate us, don’t legalise it,” said another sex worker.

Some members of the SC appointed panel too have their reservations. Making brothels legal will make them vulnerable, we are against any move to legalise prostitution, said president of Shakti Vahini Ravi Kant. .

While the NCW chief who made headlines with her statements supporting legalisation, has suddently gone mum on the issue, “Won’t comment on sex workers issue,” said Laitha.

Women’s groups too are deeply divided, Shabnam Khan said, “It’s a good move provided they get all facilities like helath care etc.”

While women & child ministry hasn’t commented on the issue yet – A delegation of members of women’s groups in India met NCW chairperson and submitted a memorandum urging it to go in for a national-level consultation with all sections on the matter.

Domestic helps to knock Modi’s door

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Still in a daze, the mother of the 14-year-old maid found dead at a house in an upscale Gurgaon locality, in January, kept up her demand for justice. The postmortem has established sexual abuse though the girl’s employers alleged suicide. Her account of the unhelpful police—no one has been arrested—at a public meeting packed with domestic workers on Tuesday once again pressed home the need for a central legislation to regulate this sector.

Now, domestic workers, under the banner of National Platform for Domestic Workers, a group of NGOs, have decided to knock on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s door, asking for the pending legislation to be enacted. In the summer of 2013, thousands of domestic workers converged on the streets of Delhi, demanding a central law. They submitted a petition to committees in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on July 31, 2013. The Congress-led UPA government had failed to enact the legislation and now, one and a half years later, men and women engaged in housework in cities are still waiting for their due.

The country is estimated to have over 50 million such workers. On Tuesday, household helps in the city came together to voice their concerns. The girl’s mother was among the workers who testified to the abuse and denial of workers’ rights before an eminent jury headed by the chairperson of the National Women’s Commission, Lalitha Kumaramangalam. Dr P M Nair, retd DIG (trafficking), now at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and S C Srivastava of the National Labour Law Association were part of the jury. The organizer, NPDW, comprises trade unions and organizations of domestic workers from around the country. The participants who spoke were both full-time and part-time workers, including those trafficked for labour by individuals and unscrupulous placement agencies.

Besides a central legislation, NPDW also wants the ratification of the ILO Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which was passed in June 2011. The central law for domestic workers should regulate employment and work conditions, fix wages and hours, regulate placement agencies and provide a mechanism for resolution of disputes and protection of employment. Social protection provisions should include social security, health, education, childcare, housing, skill training and pensions, affirmed the NPDW.

Subhash Bhatnagar, activist and lead member of NPDW, said beginning with the Domestic Workers (Conditions of Employment) Bill, 1959, there’ve been many attempts to control this sector, but without success. The most recent attempt was the Domestic Workers (Conditions of Service) Bill, 2009. There still isn’t a central act to protect the largest and fastest-growing sector of employment for women in urban areas.