Kolkata: Objecting to a section in the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention and Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, representatives of sex workers’ collectives from east India on Tuesday asserted that many are involved in the business “voluntarily” and do not want to be “rescued”.
At least 80 representatives of sex workers’ collectives from Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha shared their views on the bill, the fourth draft version of which has been put forth by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
“There are many sex workers who are involved in sex work voluntarily and many of them do not want to be ‘rescued’. There is no need to treat sex workers like criminals,” representatives of the collectives said in a statement.
One particular section of the draft legislation gives police officials the power to carry out a search without any warrant, they said, referring to chapter four, under Section 23 (2), of the bill.
Further, they demanded the choice for rehabilitation and medical examination should rest with the “victim” of trafficking.
“Everything, including medical examination or rehabilitation, should be based on voluntary choices of the victim,” said Geetarani Dutta, General Secretary, All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), Odisha.
Such anti-trafficking efforts should also include representatives of community-based organisations, including labour organisations or sex workers’ organisations, Dutta said.
“Though we understand that the purpose of this bill is to prevent all forms of human trafficking, it is equally important to know that all sex workers are not trafficked. In fact, as community-based organisations working for sex workers, we not only promote health seeking behaviour among sex workers but also have formed a self-regulatory board to avoid any minor trafficking,” said Kusum, President of AINSW.
The representatives on Monday attended a regional consultation on the fourth draft version of the Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2016, organised by CREA, Lawyers Collective and Centre for Advocacy and Research.