Religious institutions to come under scanner of immoral trafficking

Updated on May 11, 2007 05:19 AM IST
The government has decided to include inducement of humans for ‘religious’ and ‘social nature’ as cases of trafficking under the proposed amendments in the ITPA, reports Chetan Chauhan.
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HT Image
None | By, New Delhi

Oscar nominated Hindi movie Water’s sad story of centuries-old tradition of widowed Indian women being pushed into prostitution in the name of religion would be a crime in modern India. The police would be able to book perpetrators of such acts under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956.

The government has decided to include inducement of humans for ‘religious’ and ‘social nature’ as cases of trafficking under the proposed amendments in the ITPA. The amendments are likely to be introduced in monsoon session of Parliament. “A note is ready for Cabinet consideration,” a Women and Child Development ministry official said.

The WCD ministry has accepted the suggestion of Parliamentary Standing Committee in this regard. The committee was told that caste and religion based prostitution was rampant in the country and this route was being ‘clandestinely’ used to traffic the girls into prostitution. “The definition of trafficking should be redrafted to prevent cases of trafficking driven by religious and social beliefs,” the committee recommended.

Although witnessed before the committee gave several examples of religion-based prostitution, the committee mentioned one such tradition Devadasis, termed as servants of God. As per tradition, girls at an age of 3 are married to a deity or a temple and have to serve God their entire life.

In modern India, the tradition has been associated with commercial sexual exploitation and has even been admitted in a report of National Human Rights Commission. “After initiation as devadasis, women migrate either to nearby towns or far-off cities to practice prositution,” the report said. The study recorded that 45.9 per cent of devadasis in a district in Andhra Pradesh were found to be prostitutes. Even though devadasis have been declared illegal by governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, NHRC had found the practice to be prevalent in 14 and 10 districts of the two states, respectively.

However, ministry officials told HT the proposed amendment would cover tribal communities and all religious organisations including some religious gurus against whom complaints of forcing disciplines into prostitution have been received. Till now, the Act covered trafficking for the purpose of commercial sex work and is defined as sale of organs, sale of humans for sexual abuse and sale of humans for slavery.

Ranjana Kumari, Director of Institute for Social Research, who made a presentation before the standing committee, said the new provision would curb practices of tribes like Bedia, where the parents use their daughters for financial gains through prostitution. However, the provision will not cover practices like polyandry, where women are married to more than one man.

The ministry has also accepted the recommendation of the committee to enhance the punishment for child trafficking from seven to ten years in case of first offence and life imprisonment in case of second offence. Another recommendation that cases of trafficking would be investigated by an inspector level official has also been agreed.

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    Chetan Chauhan heads regional editions as Deputy National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over 20 years, he has written extensively on social sector with special focus on environment and political economy.

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