The Government on Thursday said there are no plans to legalise prostitution. Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi informed the Rajya Sabha that the government has not proposed to legalise the sex trade, but is implementing a number of programmes and schemes for the welfare and economic empowerment of women.
“Sex workers who fulfil the criteria laid down in the respective programmes and schemes can avail the benefits under them. There is no proposal to amend the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 for this purpose,”she said in a written reply.
The Minister said with a view to improving the effectiveness in tackling the crime of human trafficking and to improve the responsiveness of the law enforcement machinery, exhaustive and consolidated advisories are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of Women and Child Development to all States and union territories. “These advisories have a lasting impact on the law enforcement agencies across the country and have conveyed the seriousness and gravity of the crime,”she said.
Listing the details of the schemes that the Government has for the welfare and rehabilitation of sex workers, she said there is a scheme called ‘Ujjawala’ – for the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Ms. Gandhi said the scheme has been in place since 2007 and is envisaged for women and children who are vulnerable to trafficking and those who are victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
“Sex workers who wish to be rehabilitated can also avail of rehabilitation services provided under this scheme,” she said.
There has been a debate in the country on legalising prostitution, with certain organisations of sex workers themselves seeking decriminalisation of the trade. The chairperson of the National Commission for Women Lalitha Kumaramangalam had also suggested legalising sex work to regulate the trade and ensure better living conditions for women engaged in commercial sex work. Legalising the trade, she had said, will also bring down trafficking in women and lower the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.