Illegal Brothels

Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi speaks during a seminar on menstrual health in New Delhi, Feb. 20. Gandhi says a new bill introduced by her ministry will help better enforce sex trafficking laws and provide rehabilitation to those who have been victims of the sex trafficking industry. (Bidesh Manna/IANS photo)

NEW DELHI — Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi Feb. 28 said a new ministry legislation will help address the issue of "illegal" brothels, adding that she doesn’t know how the brothels are running in the capital and elsewhere in India.

Calling the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 – cleared by the Union Cabinet Feb. 28 – "one of the best piece of laws in the world on human trafficking," Gandhi said that by equipping law enforcement agencies with more ammunition, the bill will plug loopholes in earlier anti-trafficking laws and help tackle human trafficking and the festering issue of illegal brothels.

The minister pointed out that the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, criminalizes sexual exploitation and abuse for commercial purposes, but neither legalizes nor criminalizes the sex trade, if taken up freely.

Per the new bill, the National Investigation Agency will also act as the Anti-Trafficking Bureau and the NIA Act is being amended separately for this purpose, she said.

The bill provides stringent punishment (up to seven to 10 years of imprisonment) for buying or selling any person per se (and not just for prostitution, as provided by the existing laws); time bound in-camera trial and repatriation; monetary relief and compensation to victims, as well as immunity for victims in some cases.

The bill will also provide "immediate rehabilitation of the victims." 

Previously, victims were placed in detention and rehabilitated only after a case concluded. "Sometimes it would take 10 years, and by that time it was too late. That won't happen now," she told the media after the Cabinet meet.

She said that the bill was in conformity with the International Conventions and Protocols on Trafficking.

As per the bill, rescued adults will be given an opportunity before the Magistrate if they want to stay in protective housing or return to their places of origin, she said.

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi called the bill an "historic achievement."

"I thank the government. It's a victory of the 1.2 million people who participated in 11,000-km-long Bharat Yatra for this demand."

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