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Include us in the consultation of drafting Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2016, say sex workers

The Draft Bill makes no provisions for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation for such persons who may have been coerced into forced labour or for organ transplantation.

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Y Maheswara Reddy

Updated: Jun 28, 2016, 03:54 PM IST

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Over 35 women from the National Network of Sex Workers from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala had attended a three day consultation in Bangalore to provide their suggestions and recommendation to the Ministry of Women and Child. The meeting was organised in Bangalore by SANGRAM, VAMP in partnership with the National Network of Sex Workers, India.

In May 2016, the Ministry of Women and Child, Government of India put out Draft Bill Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016 on its website and has called for comments.

The Draft Bill is another in a series of attempts to punish acts of trafficking. A sizable number of persons 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 persons are duped and forced to work for a pittance and in terrible work conditions.

A significant number of poor persons get duped for organ transplantation. However, the Draft Bill makes no provisions for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation for such persons who may have been coerced into forced labour or for organ transplantation. Indian laws continue to be centred around trafficking for sexual exploitation and abolishing of sex work.

The supportive organisations of NNSW translated the draft bill into Kannada, Marathi and Malayalam. The sex workers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were offered Tamil and Telugu translations during the consultation. The bill was discussed section by section and women gave extensive recommendations on each section which is being shared with the Ministry of Women and Child. Many women and supportive activists shared that there are many concerns around the draft bill pertaining to sex workers rights.

The draft bill has been introduced with a plethora of existing laws on trafficking such as ITPA and Sections 370-373. There is no clarity how these will coexist.

Despite requests to be included in the consultations, the draft bill has been made without inputs or discussions with networks, collectives of sex workers or rights activists working with sex workers. "We continue to be kept out of drafting processes, though it is well known that are victims of badly drafted anti trafficking laws and policies and NGOs who want to rescue us. We call on the Minister to include us in all consultation", Mukta, Uttara Karnataka Mahila Okkuta  and a members of National Network of Sex Workers, India.

"No one should be sent to the Corrective Homes forcibly. The consent of the victim should be taken. The corrective homes should provide counselling services. The corrective homes should keep major and minors separately", Bharathi, General Secretary of Karnataka Sex Workers Union and member of National Network of Sex Workers.

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