Sex workers in Kolkata took to streets protesting against the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) saying it would hurt them if implemented.
Members of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) 'Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee' and National Network for the Sex Workers' Forum took out a procession to make common people aware of the act.
Sex workers alleged that ITPA criminalises most aspects of sex work by equating voluntary adult sex work with trafficking. They also fear that, all that they have achieved, like use of condom, awareness of AIDS, education for sex workers children, through long movement would go down the drain.
"Section 3 of ITPA law says that anybody who will rent place to us will be arrested and will be penalized for 10,000 rupees. If nobody will give us premises then how will we continue our trade. We will come on the road, and this profession will become an underground trade. Then we won't use condom as well, thus the diseases will spread further. Section 5C punishes clients of sex workers, but we can continue with our trade. When the customers are arrested then how will we earn and the trade will shut down completely," said Asha Banerjee, Secretary, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee.
The Central Government has reportedly proposed an amendment to the ITPA to punish the clients of sex workers. Sex workers have alleged that this process would deny sex workers basic rights for survival and livelihood.
Sex workers claimed that government should have consulted all concerned including affected people before amending any law, but the Union Government has been ignoring the voices of the sex workers in the ITPA amendment process.
"This law has been made for us and nobody even consulted us that whether it will be beneficial for us or not. We have been staging protests and demonstrations against it from a long time.
But if it gets passed in Parliament in July then we won't just stop with such rallies and protests. We will go to parliament as well and stage demonstration there. And if still nothing happens then we will sit on hunger strike as well," said Swapna Gyen, sex worker.
Although prostitution is still illegal in India, it is a thriving underground industry.urbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a forum of 65,000 sex workers based in West Bengal, is active in challenging and addressing the structural barriers that form the everyday reality of sex workers' lives.
They have submitted a memorandum to the governor of West Bengal and have sought his intervention in the matter.
Sex workers are a marginalized lot in India and have very few rights. Both their customers and the police exploit them.
High levels of violence in the sex industry, the presence of child sex workers, lack of access to health care, and high levels of HIV infection are some of the key issues affecting the sex workers in India.
Prostitution is outlawed in India, but the country has over two million sex workers, most of them living on the fringes of the society.