As the fierce debate on the possibility of legalising prostitution rages on in India, in the backdrop of the telugu heroine prostitution scandal , the advocates of the profession seem to be going on the defensive.
While a final decision on the matter will be taken only after consultations with various stake-holders, India Opines brings to its readers an exclusive interview with Amod Kanth, former DGP of Goa and Arunachal Pradesh and well known social activist, running the NGO Prayas for Juvenile Aid Centre in Delhi and nine other states for destitute and deprived children. Incidentally Kanth has also been also involved into the making of the laws on Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act which was later amended to Immoral Traffic Act.
Here are excerpts from a long interview with Amod Kanth ten days before Prayas celebrates its 26th anniversary on November 15.
Question -Why are you so unhappy with the advocates of prostitution in India?
Answer- I feel very strongly on this because for the last 26 years, ever since Prayas was set up in 1988 we have been involved in rescuing children and minor girls from trafficking and trying to get them rehabilitated. I have travelled widely to remote places like Bihar, Nepal, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and know that it is such a Herculean task to persuade the families particularly of girls to take them back after they have been rescued. And now this new law seems to negate all our efforts.
Q-But this is being legalised in many countries across the globe why should India lag behind?
A-This is not a valid argument at all because firstly, even in countries like Finland, Norway and Denmark where it is legalised, 50 percent people are against this. Secondly, the socio economic conditions in India are very different.With our experience of dealing with trafficking I can tell you that prostitution is thriving in the country due to conditions of extreme poverty,through pimps and procurers.
Ninety percent of those in the profession are there due to lack of opportunity, which is turning them into commercial commodities available at a price – the latest example being the telugu TV star Shweta Basu Prasad.
Q- But the advocates of the law are saying that the Indian Constitution allows them the freedom to follow a vocational of their choice.
A- That is the sad part of the story. They are saying that it is their means of livelihood but we all know this is an illegal and illicit market thriving on depravity and exploitIon. If the law makers feel that legalising this profession will ensure a proper health care and health check up for those who have no other option if can be provided even normally instead of adding more victims to the list of the explored who are going through hell before and after joining the flesh trade.
Q-How come even some women groups are supporting the enactment of this law?
A-I don’t want to take names but let me assert it very categorically that those who are advocating this have vested interests in the continuation of the profession. Have you noticed that almost all red -light areas have thriving crime gangs simultaneously. What does that prove? You may be surprised to know that when the Delhi Police conducted a huge raid in the G B Road in 1996/97 we rescued 111 children from there.
But on checking it turned out that at least 91 of them had no connection with the prostitutes although they had claimed that they were their children. It proves what I always believed that most of those who land up in this profession have been either kidnapped or lured through promise of marriage or jobs.
Q- How does law stand in this case?
A- My question is very simple. What are they trying to legalise? Knowing fully well that this profession is thriving on at least 10 crimes- kidnapping, abduction, wrongful confinement, sexual exploitation,forced labour, sale and purchase of children and women etc.violating various laws of the country including Sections 367,377,324, and 323 of the Indian Penal Code, what are we trying to legalise?Are those advocating this trying to legalise this whole network?
Q-But will your stand be able to withstand international scrutiny because the UN keeps setting new standards of laws?
A-Let me tell you that our work at Prayas in rescuing women and children from trafficking and rehabilitating them has earned us accolades from various international forums. In 2005 we were awarded the Global Hero award by a well-known institution like Trafficking in Person. Laura Bush, wife of the then US president also visited Prayas the same year after which I was invited to the White House where I gave a presentation on trafficking.
By: Amitabh Srivastava