Reject ordinance on crime against women: Sex workers to President

The proposed Section 370 incorporated in the ordinance puts at par those who are trafficked for sex work and those who are into this profession voluntarily

The National Network of Sex Workers has appealed to the President Pranab Mukherjee to reject the ordinance on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012, cleared by the Union cabinet in haste.

Activists Meena Seshu and Manohar Elavarth of National Network of Sex Workers said the proposed Section 370 incorporated in the ordinance puts at par those who are trafficked for sex work and those who are into this profession voluntarily.

At the heart of the problem is the newly worded Section 370 of the Verma Commission, which has been accepted in totality by the ordinance. The Section deals with the offence of trafficking of a person. The term "exploitation" includes "prostitution" itself. This in essence means that "prostitution" will now be interpreted as exploitation, said Seshu.

The ordinance 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 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 in sex work, the activists said.

The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has also objected t o the selective and arbitrary approach of the government to the Verma Committee recommendations. The present fragmented ordinance can only serve to sabotage the intention of providing recourse to victims of sexual violence, said Kiran Moghe, president, Maharashtra unit of AIDWA. Issues of sexual autonomy, the violence embedded in marital rape, the concerns of those with alternative sexualities have been bypassed.

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