On March 21, India’s Parliament passed an Anti-Rape Bill in which trafficking for sexual exploitation has been made a criminal offense with stringent punishment for traffickers and clients.
Apne Aap has been advocating a definition and criminalizing of trafficking in the Indian Law since 2002, based on the standards of the UN Protocol to End Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. We have made submissions to the Ministry of Women and Child, Planning Commission and Home over the last ten years. Our survivor members have testified to the standing committee in Parliament and have held numerous survivor conferences to define and ask for the new law. Last year we launched a petition to the President of India, Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex, asking for an anti-trafficking law that fully described the process of trafficking and has stricter punishment for buyers and traffickers. Apne Aap Founder, Ruchira Gupta spoke at the UN, in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council about how survivors wanted access to justice and an end to the impunity enjoyed by their rapists/clients and Johns and to their traffickers-recruiters, transporters, and those who harbor and received them. Apne Aap marched with other women and young people after the Delhi rape explaining that commercial rape was rape too. We also made a submission to Justice Verma on this. In the last month we met MPs from all political parties, explaining our position and giving briefing notes.
We are thrilled to say our hard work has paid off. We want to thank all of you who have campaigned with us, signed our petitions and supported and encouraged us. This will protect millions of young girls in India from being trafficked and act as a deterrent to thousands of traffickers.
However, we still need to enable women and children trapped in prostitution to be decriminalized and to be able to seek the help and protection of the police without fear of being prosecuted. We also need strict liability for traffickers and buyers who often pretend that they did not know that the girl they raped or bought and sold was a minor: Anyone “selling” a girl or “buying” sex in exchange for money from a girl should be liable. A response like “I didn’t know she was not 18” or “She said she was 25,” should not be considered as a defense by the perpetrators-traffickers and rapists.
Our next campaign is to ask for a complete overhaul of the Immoral Traffic Prevent Act, including measures for victim-friendly rehabilitation and the above changes. Apne Aap has joined with like-minded NGOs in the Campaign Against Sexual Slavery of Indian Children and Women. Check back for information on how you can join with us in demanding changes to the ITPA.
Read more about the passage of the bill here.