Sex workers want Pranab to reject ordinance


Even as the women’s groups and civil society organisations have loudly protested against the ordinance cleared on Friday by the Union Cabinet on rape laws, sex workers across the country have appealed to the President to reject it as the ordinance ‘criminalised’ sex workers.

In a statement here on Saturday, the National Network of Sex Workers pointed out that the proposed Section 370 incorporated in the ordinance puts on a par those who are trafficked for sex work and those who are into this profession voluntarily.

Citing information available in the public domain, the network said the section proposed by the Verma Committee and accepted by the Cabinet, was at the heart of the problem. The section deals with the offence of trafficking of a person[i]. The term “exploitation” includes “prostitution” itself. This, in essence means that all “prostitution” will now be interpreted as exploitation.

The ordinance, if promulgated, will criminalise people in sex work since the section does not differentiate between “coercive prostitution” and prostitution; nor does it talk about the “exploitation of prostitution.”

“The Verma Committee has wrongly interpreted the internationally recognised and existing explanation of exploitation [under the U.N. Protocol, 2000], which states “Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation. If the Section is accepted, it would go against the commitment made by India which is a signatory to the Protocol and has ratified the UN Protocol in 2011,” the statement said.

“The inclusion of voluntary and consenting sex workers into the definition of exploitation puts back the struggle waged by sex worker communities across India to ensure dignity for people engaged in sex work. We are deeply concerned that this interpretation if accepted by the President of India will contradict the Supreme Court of India which has upheld the rights of women in sex work observing that Article 21 grants them a right to live with dignity[ii] and the commitment made by India which is a signatory and has ratified the U.N. Protocol in 2011,’’ it said.

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