In a major relief to sex workers, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has decided to recommend deletion of Section 5 (c) of the Immoral Trafficking (Amendment) Bill, 2006.
The section allows prosecution of any person found to be exploiting a trafficked person. The offender can be booked under other sections of the Act, a committee member explained.
Number of NGOs representing sex-workers, especially from West Bengal, had objected to the section claiming that it was against their basic rights to flesh trade. The section allowed prosecuting agency to book anyone including clients found to be harassing sex workers.
The committee was flocked with representations from NGOs stating that the police can misuse the section to books clients and even NGO workers. “The section provides too much suo motto power to the prosecuting agency. It can be misused to drive away clients,” a Parliamentary committee member said.
At a meeting on last Wednesday, the committee made the decision after hearing the Women and Child Development ministry officials led by secretary Deepa Jain Singh.
In a bid to strengthen investigation in trafficking cases, the committee has reportedly decided that only inspector level officials should be allowed to conduct raids and carrying investigation under the Immoral Trafficking Act. The Bill had entrusted the job to sub-inspector level officials.
The committee also didn’t agree with the WCD ministry on keeping a trafficked woman for seven years in a remand home as part of a rehabilitation package. The committee wanted that the period should be reduced to five years, or even lowered, and stressed on providing employment avenues and compensation to trafficked person once send back home.
However, the committee members agreed with other provisions of the bill like increasing an age of a minor to 18 years and imposing heavy penalty on those found guilty of trafficking human beings. The WCD ministry had proposed 19 amendments in the Immoral Trafficking Act in a bill tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The ministry is expected to reintroduce the Bill in the winter session of Parliament after the committee’s report is tabled. “We will try our best,” a ministry official said, while stating that the entire process of consulting the stakeholders will have to be undertaken once again.
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