ITPA Amendment Bill, 2006
In 2005, the then Department of Women and Child Development (WCD), Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India proposed changes to the ITPA. The WCD failed to consult sex workers and AIDS service organisations in the process. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and Health Ministry too, did not appear to have been consulted. Protesting their exclusion, sex workers from across the country, marched to the Parliament on 8th March 2006 and resisted amendments to the ITPA. The Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit tracked these legislative developments and opposed the proposed Bill.
Notwithstanding the protests, the Ministry of WCD introduced the Immoral Traffic Prevention Amendment Bill in Parliament on 22nd May 2006. The Bill included several contentious provisions, including a new Section 5C that penalises persons visiting brothels. Given lack of consensus, the Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development for scrutiny. Intervening in the legislative process, the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit submitted both written and oral submissions critiquing the Bill. The Unit had also convened community consultations to update sex workers’ and facilitate collective action against the Bill.
On 23rd November 2006, the Parliamentary Standing Committee presented its findings as the 182nd Report on ITPA Amendment Bill, which the Unit critiqued. The WCD revised the ITPA Bill, which came up for Cabinet approval on 6th September 2007.
On 5th November 2007, the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit organized a National Consultation on Sex Work, HIV and the Law in New Delhi. The meeting brought together leading health and HIV agencies, community based organizations and experts from government, non-government and international development sectors to discuss how the changes proposed to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 would affect HIV prevention among sex workers and clients under the National AIDS Control Programme. A statement of concern from the national consultation was released.
Owing to a lack of consensus, the Union Cabinet referred the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2007 (“revised Bill”) to a Group of Ministers (GOM) for further consideration. The stringent criticism on legal, political and public health grounds resulted in divergence of opinion within the government. Consequently, the ITPA Amendment Bill lapsed in February, 2009.