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Stick awaits brothel client
BIAS BUSTERS
Proposed amendments
• Brothel clients to be
punished
• Soliciting and loitering not
to invite prosecution
• Age ceiling of child to go up from 16 to 18
• Brothel managers’ penalty to be raised
• Traffickers’ property to be confiscated

New Delhi, Nov. 27: The government has approved proposals that allow punishment to brothel clients and prevents prosecution of sex workers for “soliciting and loitering”.

The proposals are part of an amendment package that seeks to remove the bias in prostitution penal provisions, which are now tilted heavily against women.

Under existing provisions, sex workers are prosecuted after raids but their customers are usually let off with a warning.

Once substantive amendments are made to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), clients visiting brothels can be imprisoned and fined. The prison term and the amount of the fine will be decided later.

Another proposal cleared by the government will scrap two dreaded sections ' 8 and 20 ' that punish sex workers but spare traffickers. Section 8 makes “soliciting, loitering and offending public decency” liable for prosecution, while section 20 empowers law enforcers to remove sex workers from any place.

Women’s organisations have been demanding the removal of these two sections for a long time, saying that the clauses leave sex workers vulnerable to police harassment.

Two months ago, the department of women and children forwarded the amendments but the Cabinet refused to endorse them. The amendments were then referred to a group of ministers that recently met and approved the changes.

The Centre is also planning to introduce a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that will deal with wider issues of abuse. “The ITPA covers only trafficking for sexual exploitation. It leaves out bonded domestic labour, fraudulent marriages, sex tourism, drug peddling, begging, camel jockeying, slavery and removal of organs,” says a government note.

Flesh trade accounts for only 9 per cent of total trafficking in human beings. “The ITPA is outdated,” says the government. It will take some time before the new act is put in place. Till then, the government wants the ITPA to be more stringent.

The amendments will increase the tenure of imprisonment for brothel managers from one year to two years. The maximum fine will go up from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 for first conviction and Rs 2 lakh for subsequent convictions.

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