Sex workers’ organisations and rights activists have raised several concerns around the draft Bill on Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016.
Indian laws continue to be centred around trafficking for sexual exploitation and abolishing sex work, said a release issued by the National Network of Sex Workers from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
At least 35 women from the Network attended a three-day consultation in Bangalore on the draft Bill. The women said that a significant number of poor people get duped for organ transplantation. However, the draft Bill makes no provisions for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation for such people who may have been coerced into forced labour or organ transplantation.
“The draft Bill is another in a series of attempts to punish acts of trafficking. A sizeable number of people through fraud, deceit and coercion get trafficked for forced labour in various areas. Domestic work, factories, small scale units in a variety of areas from metal forging to zari work and manufacture of crackers, as well as brick-making and agriculture are some common areas where people are duped and forced to work for a pittance and in terrible work conditions,” a Network release said.
In May 2016, the Union Ministry of Women and Child issued the draft Bill on its website and called for comments. The draft Bill has been translated into Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam. Telugu and Tamil translations were offered during consultation. At the meet, the women gave extensive recommendations on each section which is being shared with the Ministry.
Meena Seshu, founder of Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM), an NGO that works with sex workers to stop the spread of HIV, said that despite requests to be included in the consultations, the draft Bill has been drafted without inputs or discussions with networks and collectives of sex workers or rights activists working with sex workers.
Members of Saheli Sangh, Pune, further pointed out that to complicate matters, the practice of raiding, rescuing and rehabilitating consenting adults in sex work has meant that existing sections of ITPA have been discriminatorily used against sex workers.