Ravi Kant President, Shakti Vahini – Advocate Supreme Court of India
Prostitution in India is controlled by mafia, criminal elements & organized crime syndicates. A close scrutiny of various red light areas across the country prove that it is a crime syndicate which is completely focused on generating high profit for the operators of the sex trade. It uses various form of exploitation to prey upon the victims. The demand for young girls in this trade vigorously fuels the trafficking of minor victims from across the country and neighboring states. There are several cases of sex trafficking of minor girls as well as women which have ended in conviction and closure of brothels. These cases have revealed tales of extreme violence , lurement and entrapment.
The power dynamics in the red light area or in any place where sexual exploitation takes place is controlled by the organized crime syndicates, money lenders & criminal elements. This is because it is a high profit making business. The profit from exploitation fuels the sex trade. Operators need profit and in order to generate high profit it has to cater to the demand of the people who come and pay for these services. It is a well-established fact that the demand is of young minor girls. As the age of the victim increases the demand for the victim goes down. During the tender years the demand is high and also the revenue generated from the exploitation is also high.
Since the earning capacity of the victims who are controlled by the criminal and organized crime reduces by the age and no of years the victim has been exploited the traffickers loose interest on these women and after years of exploitation many of these women are set free by the brothel owners and are allowed to continue the work independently by paying commissions to the traffickers. In the initial five to ten years the minor victims are forced, exploited and violated by hundreds of men. Their films are made and widely circulated in the internet which generates huge profit for the traffickers.
After years of sexual exploitation, servitude and bondage which may continue for 10-15 years and when the revenue generated from their exploitation goes down they are set free and made partners in the illegal sex trade.
It is a well established fact that high profits and revenues come from the exploitation of minors and new entrants. The business interest of traffickers are more in exploitation of minor victims. In places like the red light areas where there is organized prostitution there is nothing called “consent” or “out of choice”- It is all about exploitation and subjugation of innocent women and children who are trafficked each year from far flung areas of the country.
This is the reason why this exploitation should end. the traffickers are aware on the loopholes of the law. They take the legal process easily and think they can get away with the crime.
It is because of this it is the need of the time that the new comprehensive legislation is passed as soon as possible. the Comprehensive legislation will bring the fear of the law among the traffickers. The law will mandate a national nodal agency to investigate cross border and inter state trafficking cases. It will strengthen investigation of human trafficking cases.The new law will usher in witness protection protocols which is the need of time. It is because of this the traffickers many a times threaten innocent victims and ensure that they testify falsely in the courts. The new legislation will bring in a proper budgeted rehabilitation programme which will help the victims of the organized crime to start life fresh and also end their vulnerability. The proposed legislation will also ensure that property generated out of the exploitation of trafficked victims are confiscated. The proposed legislation will bring in a institutional machinery from the remote districts of the country to the various state capitals and will lead to strengthening of victim response services.
The legalization brigade in India has been spreading misinformation that if the legislation is passed the life of women in prostitution will be made difficult and their livelihoods will be affected and they may be victimized by the police. The supreme court in Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal has already clarified that women in prostitution who have been trapped in the trade should not be victimized and only the perpetrators need to be booked and prosecuted.
The women in fact are entitled to rehabilitation which has been missing since the last sixty years. the new legislation will bring in budgeted rehabilitation initiatives which will help lift thousands of trafficked victims live a life of respect and self dignity.
It is because of this the new proposed legislation which the union cabinet has already approved should become a law as soon as possible . It is the step in Right direction.
Prostitution is Organised Crime and Violation of Fundamental Rights. Trafficking and sexual slavery is worst form of Human Rights Violation. No women joins this inhuman trade out of choice. Amost 100% women have been trafficked and forced into the sex trade.
Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 criminalises the organised crime of Prostitution. Organised Prostitution creates a demand for young girls for the brothels which is met by trafficking of minor girls from across the Country.
Giving Prostitution a legal status will be giving boost to demand of young minor girls who will be trafficked. In countries where such legalization has happened it has led to exploitation of women and girls and also commodification of women bodies.
There here is no doubt that women who have been caught in the sex trade need access to all Government facilities and schemes and efforts must be made to see that they join the mainstream and are properly rehabilitated. Also those who indulge in this organised crime of human trafficking which leads to kidnapping of young girls from across the country need to be properly punished.
The sad part is that inspite of various recommendations from the Supreme Court in various cases no geniune efforts have been made by any Government to see that this social malice which results from Organised Crime be eradicated.
The Supreme Court in its order dated 26 July 2012 has clarified that its endeavor to provide right to life and access to governmental schemes should not be construed as an encouragement to prostitution.
The clarification had come from a bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Gyan Sudha Mishra after additional solicitor general P P Malhotra had drawn the court’s attention to its July 19 ,2011 order in which it had sought suggestions from the SC-constituted panel on creating “conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity”. Malhotra had said there was a danger of the order being construed as an incentive to indulge in an activity that had been termed as an offence under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956.
The Judges on the bench passed had passed separate orders, but both meant to clarify that the panel would recommend steps to create “conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity as per provisions of the Constitution Article 21″.
Justice Kabir added a precautionary clarification — “The above modification should not be construed to mean any attempt made to encourage prostitution.”
Hearing the Petition Justice Mishra had clarified, “I prefer to add…sex workers have a right to live with dignity but the collective endeavour must be on part of the sex workers to give up the trade in case they are given alternate platform.”
The Detailed Order of the Bench Dated 26 /07/2012 is as follows :
1. While concurring with the views of my learned brother Justice Altamas Kabir, I prefer to add in regard to the second issue that this Court should not be misunderstood to encourage the practice of flesh trade or advocate the recognition of sex trade merely because it has raised the issue to emphasize the rehabilitation aspect of the sex workers, for which this Court had taken the initiative right at the threshold. I consider this essential in order to allay any apprehension which prompted the Union of India to move this application for modification, by highlighting that the sex workers although have a right to live with dignity as the society is aware that they are forced to continue with this trade under compulsions since they have no alternative source of livelihood, collective endeavour should be there on the part of the Court and all concerned who have joined this cause as also the sex workers themselves to give up this heinous profession of flesh trade by providing the destitute and physically abused women an alternative forum for employment and resettlement in order to be able to rehabilitate themselves. I, therefore, wish to reiterate by way of abundant caution that this Court should not be perceived to advocate the recognition of sex trade or promote the cause of prostitution in any form and manner even when it had stated earlier in its terms of reference regarding conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity.
2. Thus, when we modify the earlier term of reference and state regarding conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution, the same may not be interpreted or construed so as to create an impression or draw inference that this Court in any way is encouraging the sex workers to continue with their profession of flesh trade by providing facilities to them when it is merely making an effort to advocate the cause of offering an alternative source of employment to those sex workers who are keen for rehabilitation. When we say conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity, we unambiguously wish to convey that while the sex workers may be provided alternative source of employment for their rehabilitation to live life with dignity, it will have to be understood in the right perspective as we cannot direct the Union of India or the State Authorities to provide facilities to those sex workers who wish to promote their profession of sex trade for earning their livelihood, except of course the basic amenities for a dignified life, as this was certainly not the intention of this Court even when the term of reference was framed earlier.
3. We, therefore, wish to be understood that we confine ourselves to the efforts for rehabilitation of sex workers which should not be construed as facilitating, providing them assistance or creating conducive conditions to carry on flesh trade for expanding their business in any manner as it cannot be denied that the profession of sex trade is a slur on the dignity of women. Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution be therefore understood in its correct perspective as indicated above.
J (GYAN SUDHA MISRA) New Delhi, July 26, 2012