Anti-prostitution activists seek impunity for sex workers

New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) Some of the key voices in the global movement against prostitution on Monday demanded impunity for prostitutes and “criminalisation” of traffickers and clients.

“We want the government to decriminalise the prostituted girls and women as they are driven to the trade because of their helplessness,” said Apne Aap founder Ruchira Gupta, who was here to attend the “World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls”.

The government should criminalise the trafficker and penalise the clients, she added.

“We are hosting this Congress at a time when a new trafficking bill is going to be introduced in Parliament. This bill needs to address sexual exploitation and prostitution and have provisions for the prevention of trafficking through budget allocations for investment in food, clothing, housing and education of at-risk girls,” Gupta said.

“It needs measures for ending impunity of traffickers and sex-buyers. It must do away with Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act that criminalises women for soliciting in a public place. This is in keeping with the UN Protocol and Nordic laws, which are now considered a Best Practice in the world,” she added.

Objecting to the terms “sex work” and “sex workers”, she said: “Sex is not work. These words should be abolished.”

Apne Aap’s survivor activist Fatima Khatoon from the Nat community was also present. Inter-generational prostitution still prevails in her community.

She said: “I have a right to live and my daughter has a right to live … just like other people in the society.

“I asked the mothers in my own community as to why should we sell our daughters? Why should we be sold?

According to Sarah Benson, Chair of CAP International: “Our societies remain widely deaf to the distress of victims of prostitution and trafficking.”

“We stand in solidarity with survivors advocating for their universal decriminalisation, for unconditional access to protection, justice and exit options, and for the implementation of policies targeting their economic and sexual exploiters — pimps, procurers and sex buyers,” she said.

The panel argued that prostitution could never be something that one would choose.

“We are told that prostitution exists because of women poverty. The truth is that it exists because the man demands for it. It is a fact that the most impoverished and most disadvantaged women are drawn to it,” said prostitution survivor Rachel Moran.

“You will never hear a prostitute’s honesty unless she gets out of the circumstantial situation that made her become a part of the trade,” she said, adding: “We want the global sex trade community to collapse.”

Swedish Ambassador Pers-Anders Sunesson said: “I am here to give my government’s support to the fight against sexual exploitation of women and girls.”

He also expressed support for the impunity of girls. “They should be given education and other facilities and allowed to live like other citizens.”

French Senator Catharine Coutelle, said: “We have to deconstruct this practice, or else traffickers will benefit.”