Sex workers coalition writes to RS Chair, asking him to send Trafficking Bill to Select Committee

The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) has written a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu appealing to him to send the Anti-Trafficking Bill scheduled to be introduced in the Upper House to be referred to a Select Committee.

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, which has been listed for introduction in Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Winter Session, could not be taken up because of disruptions over Rafale and Cauvery water issue. It was passed in Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session.

The NNSW across the country states that various vulnerable groups such as sex workers, transgenders, bonded labourers, contract workers, domestic workers, construction workers and migrant workers are likely to be adversely affected by the new anti-Trafficking Bill.

The collective representing one lakh male, female and trans sex workers has sought that the Bill explicitly state that sex orkers and transgenders will be left out of its ambit. The Bill, it is alleged, gives sweeping powers to the police who are allowed to remove a person from any place or produce him or her before the Magistrate if it is believed that it is necessary to do so because of imminent danger to the person’s life. A person also faces upto five years in jail on a mere suspicion that a particular premises is likely “to be used” for trafficking a person.

Activists also argue that the provisions in the Bill for rehabilitation of victims are weak. The new draft Bill, unlike the Immoral Traffic of Persons Act (ITPA), 1956, doesn’t provide for revocation of licence of a particular rehabilitation home if it is found to contravene the provisions of the proposed law.

They say that there is little judicial oversight on the rehabilitation process as the Bill says that a magistrate can send a person to a home for “a reasonable period of time.” However, ITPA provided that a victim can be sent to an interim custody of 21 days until the police completes its inquiry and following which can be sent to a home for a period of a year to three years.

If a victim makes a plea to seek her release it can be rejected if the magistrate is of the “opinion” that she has not done so voluntarily.

Certain activities that are categorised as aggravated forms of trafficking and are punishable with seven years to ten years in jail such as organised begging and administration of hormones will also criminalise transgenders who could be begging voluntarily and may have undergone hormone therapy for sex change.

The collective has also demanded that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, too be sent a select committee as it “violates more rights than it protects and upholds criminalisation of trans people for organised begging, while denying any opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, etc. via reservation.”

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 6:40:47 AM |

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