Friday, August 31, 2007

India: Moves to Decriminalise 'Victim' Prostitutes

INDIA -- India plans to decriminalise prostitution by treating sex workers as victims and not offenders, and instead going after traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and clients, a government official said on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of women and girls in India are kidnapped, sold, coerced or trafficked for sex in a highly organised yet illicit trade, with many brought in from neighbouring countries.

Yet activists have long said the sex workers, who are mostly forced into the trade, are treated as criminals by the law which should instead focus on punishing those behind the trade.

Officials said new amendments to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 -- which would no longer penalise sex workers -- are expected to go before the cabinet in the coming days. The proposal would then go before parliament.

"We are hoping that the amendments would be passed in this session of parliament," said Nandita Mishra, an official from the ministry of women and child development.

Proposals include deleting sections in the more than 50-year-old law relating to seducing or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution being punishable with a maximum jail term of six months and a fine of 500 rupees ($10).

Prostitutes would also no longer be forced to vacate the property they reside in...


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