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Recommended Amendments to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 had been passed by the Government in order to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation for commercial purposes. It was passed with the aim of providing support to prostitutes and individuals who had been forced to sell themselves under coercion.

Although the statute is old in itself, it has had numerous amendments till date.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2006 is a landmark amendment which has been proposed in order to cure some of the persistent defects that continue to plague this statute.

For example, it recommends the deletion of the provisions that penalized prostitutes from soliciting clients. Section 8 of the ITP Act penalizes soliciting clients in a public place. However the definition of the term public place is too large.

Section 8 provides that:
Whoever, in any public place or within sight of, and in such manner as to be seen or heard from, any public place, whether from within any building or house or not:
  1. by words, gestures, wilful exposure of his person (whether by sitting by a window or on the balcony of a building or house or in any other way), or otherwise tempts or endeavours to tempt, or attracts or endeavours to attract the attention of, any person for the purpose of prostitution; or
  2. solicits or molests any person, or loiters or acts in such manner as to cause obstruction or annoyance to persons residing nearby or passing by such public place or to offend against public decency, for the purpose of prostitution, shall be punishable on first conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both, and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, and also with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees: 36 [Provided that where an offence under this section is committed by a man, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a period of not less than seven days but which may extend to three months.]
This provisions forces those involved in prostitution as well as the entire industry to go underground making it much more difficult for police officers as well as social workers to reach them and provide them with legal and other forms of assistance.

In fact, their fear of being prosecuted often causes them to shun any form of help from any outsider to the industry. Thus the recommendation can become a great step in the right direction, allowing those involved in the industry to step up and ask for help when required.

Further the definition of minor may be deleted and child may be redefined to mean a person under the age of 18 years so as to enable the statute provide more comprehensive protection to those who are victims in sexual trafficking.

The Act also doesn't bring within its purview trafficking for reasons other than prostitution. In India trafficking for domestic work is a great cause of concern wherein individuals often cause a great deal of harm to children whom they have trafficked for providing domestic labour. Trafficking for other purposes (such as bonded labour and domestic work) also therefore should be brought under the purview of the statute.

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