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Sex workers continue to be exploited: Experts

The Times of India, Monday 24 April 2000

MUMBAI: Commercial sex workers continue to be hounded by the police and the authorities, according to experts.

The shooting of three sex workers here by an inebriated policeman last weekend only served to bring into focus the exploitation of this section of the community.

According to I. S. Gilada, head of the Peoples Health Organisation, the sex workers constantly face the threat of being booked under the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act (PITA) if not paid their regular "haftas" by the police or if they refuse to cater to curry favours with the latter.

The various lacunaes in the Act also helps the police to exploit the workers, Gilada alleges. While the Act specifies that a person can be detained if prostitution is practiced in the vicinity of public places there is no cross law that states otherwise, many times the sex workers are booked even while shopping or are more than 200 meters away from a public place. it is near impossible for the women to prove their innocence after being arrested, he adds.

Alleging that the current Act lacks teeth, Gilada suggests the adoption of stringent measures to curb child prostitution and for time-bound laws aimed at bringing the guilty to book.

The current legal situation also leads to moral endangering of the children of the sex workers, who often find themselves trapped in the situation due to lack of substantial help after the post-rescue operations.

Calling for legitimising of the profession, Gilada says that such a move will not only help in reducing exploitation by police but also ensure that the workers receive adequate health care.

Citing the example of Nevada in the US, where the profession had received partial legitimacy, he says a sustained and systematic method of registration of sex workers in a place will not only provide the exact statistic of the practitioners of the profession, but would also help in directing health care measures towards this group.

Such a move will also help the government in chalking out a health policy related to AIDS awareness in the country, thereby preventing its spread.

The licensing of the profession will also ensure that no minors entered the profession, Gilada adds.

According to a senior officer, partial legitimacy will also help in reducing manpower in the police force used for detection of the hitherto illegal trade.

Such a move will also help in the extention of educational support to the wards of these children, who are often forced to enter the profession, Gilada says.

(PTI) (pita), according to medical and legal experts.