Sex workers and women’s rights activists have welcomed the government’s move to differentiate ‘prostitution’ from exploitation in the amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code.
By inserting a new definition of exploitation, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013 passed by Lok Sabha clarifies a position that till date conflated consensual adult sex work and sex trafficking: ‘Expression “exploitation” shall include any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.’
“This formulation clarifies the government’s stand of removing adults voluntarily involved in sex work from the ambit of criminalisation,” said Meena Seshu, from the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW). “This has given a new lease of life to people who are in the sex trade of their own volition, and enables them to seek legal protection if they face violence while working.”
A written clarification issued by the Justice Verma Commission on the framing of the amended Section 370 helped strengthen this stand. “Their intention behind recommending the amendment to Section 370 was to protect women and children from being trafficked. The Committee clarified that it did not intend to bring within the ambit of the amended Section 370 “sex workers who practice of their own volition”.
Madhu Mehra of Partners in Law and Development said, “The distinction between sexual exploitation and consensual adult sex work is very significant as it enables the sex workers and their advocates to legally contest oppressive and forced sex work towards creation of safe and dignified work conditions for sex workers.”
Legislations such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act has been criticized by human rights activists, organisations and sex workers, on the grounds that the legal provisions have given law enforcement, unbridled powers of arresting and detaining consenting adult sex workers. “Instead of focussing on arresting traffickers, due to ambiguity within the law, adult consenting sex workers were the first targets,” said advocate Vrinda Grover.
- March 3-International Sex Workers Day- demand for decriminalisation of Sex work #Vaw #Womenrights (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Justice Verma report adds to sex workers’ fears #Vaw #Womenrights (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- The feminist and the sex worker: Lessons from the Indian experience (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Sex workers want Pranab to reject ordinance (thehindu.com)