Visiting brothels to invite jail term, penalty up to Rs.50,000

July 20th, 2008 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil
By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Visiting a brothel could land a person in jail and invite a penalty of up to Rs.50,000. A group of ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil has given the go-ahead to penalising clients in order to curb prostitution in the country. The GoM approved an amendment, pending for the last two years, to the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act at its last meeting in June. The amendment has a provision of jail term and heavy penalties for the clients of prostitutes who were so far kept out of the ambit of prosecution.

The bill was moved in parliament by the ministry of women and child development in 2006.

“The GoM has already decided about the provisions of jail term and penalty. It will soon be presented to the cabinet for approval and implementation on the field,” said Khairati Lal Bhola, member, central advisory committee of the ministry of women and child development.

“All the ministers did not agree with the amendments but it was given final shape with a majority of them supporting it. They believe the step will help curb trafficking of women into the world of prostitution,” Bhola told IANS.

He said ministers think that penalising clients will also help in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

As per the amendment, clients will be handed a jail term of three months or penalty of Rs.20,000 or both for their first offence. The repeat offenders will invite a penalty of Rs.50,000 or a jail term of six months.

Bhola, who also runs an NGO called Bharatiya Patita Uddhar Sabha (BPUS), said the amendment has defined all sex workers except those from financially well-off families as trafficked persons. Asking for sexual favours in return for money has been categorised as sexual exploitation.

India has nearly 2.5 million prostitutes operating out of nearly 300,000 brothels in 1,100 red light areas across the country.

Bhola said that at least two ministers were not in favour of the provision for punishing clients.

“They felt that punishing clients would force prostitutes to leave brothels and instead operate from hide outs, which would not help in controlling the spread of HIV,” he said.

“I have been working for the rehabilitation of prostitutes for over four decades, and, personally speaking, I don’t like punishing clients. By prosecuting clients, the government will kill the prostitutes of hunger and poverty.

“Can they ever stop the growing call girl trend? They want to target brothel-based poor women. This is injustice to them and lakhs of prostitutes will protest the persecution of their clients,” he claimed.

“Maharashtra has thrown dance girls out of their bars, but can the government claim that the culture has stopped? The same will happen with brothels,” he cautioned.

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