This article titled Fight against Child Prostitution in India is written by Satwinder Singh and it discusses all the legal provisions relating to Child Prostitution. “A nation’s children are its supremely important asset and nation’s future lies in their proper development. An investment in children is indeed an investment in future. A healthy and educated child of today… Read More »

This article titled Fight against Child Prostitution in India is written by Satwinder Singh and it discusses all the legal provisions relating to Child Prostitution.

“A nation’s children are its supremely important asset and nation’s future lies in their proper development. An investment in children is indeed an investment in future. A healthy and educated child of today is the active and intelligent citizen of tomorrow.”
– Rabindra Nath Tagore

Introduction – Fight against Child Prostitution in India

India’s population is about 1.38 billion, out of which there are 3 million commercial sex workers[1]. About 40% among them are children. Children are forced into prostitution due to complex push and pull factors. The factors include economic inequality and resulting disparities between rich and poor, cultural values that discriminate against girls, family disintegration and consumerism. Many children between 8-17 years of age are from poor communities, where opportunities are bleak.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), “Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation resulting in actual or potential harm to child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power[2].”

What is Child Prostitution?

There is no specific legal definition of ‘Child Prostitution’. Different laws interpret it differently. The word ‘Child’ is defined by Section 2(aa) of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956- as a person who has not completed 16 years of age[3]. The word ‘Prostitution’ is defined by Section 2(f) of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 – as the sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purposes.

The United Nation Conventions on the Right of the Child 1990, defines child prostitution as sexual exploitation of a child below the age of 18 years for remuneration in cash or kind. In general child prostitution means sexual exploitation or abuse of a child for remuneration in cash or in kind[4].

What are the legal provisions available against child prostitution?

Presently, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, Indian Penal Code 1860, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act 2012 deals with this menace. Each of these laws operates independently and have their own enforcement machinery.

Sections 366A, 366B, 372 and 373 of the India Penal Code are generally taken to be the main provisions that deal with child prostitution[5]. Under Section 366A, ‘induces any minor girl under the age of eighteen years to go from any place to another and force her, to seduce her to have illicit intercourse with another person’ is an offence punishable with maximum imprisonment up to 10 years.

Furthermore, Section 366B makes importation of girls below the age of 21 is with intent or knowledge that they will be forced or seduced to have illicit intercourse with another person is an offence punishable with maximum imprisonment of up to 10 years. While Section 372 and 373 define punishment for selling and buying a person below the age of 18 years for the purpose of prostitution, illicit intercourse or any other immoral purpose.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act- 1956 is the main legislation[6]. Section 5 of Act lays down the punishment with rigorous imprisonment between 3 to 7 years if any person, ‘procure or attempts to procure, induces to go from any place, takes or attempts to take away any person with an intention to make him carry on prostitution.’ Section 7 prescribes punishment for a person who commits the offence of prostitution in respect of a child.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act-2015 provide elaborate provisions for the care, protection and rehabilitation of children rescued from those procuring or inducing a child for commercial sexual abuse[7]. The Act doesn’t provide the definition of expression “sexual abuse”. However, under Section 2(14), a Child in need of care and protection also includes a victim of sexual abuse.

To provide a child-friendly atmosphere in the court of justice, the government has passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012[8]. Section 3 and 4 deal with penetrated sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault respectively. It involves touching the private part (vagina, penis, anus or breast of a child), physical contact with sexual intent. Section 8 and 10 provide punishment for the said offences.

What are the other provisions related to child prostitution?

Part III of the Constitution of India deal with Fundamental Rights[9]. Article 15(3) of the Constitution enables the States to make special provisions for children to improve the status of the children in society. While Article 21 provides, ‘No person shall be deprived his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’

The ‘right to life’ includes the right to health, the right to live with dignity, the right to health and the right to protection against abuse. Article 23 provides the right against exploitation – embodies two declarations – First, the traffic in human beings, beggar or other similar forms of forced labour prohibited and Second, any contravention of prohibition is an offence. Apart from this, the principles enshrined in Part-IV impose an obligation on States to provide all facilities to all their citizens through their policies.

Have some additional steps been taken?

On July 15, 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs asked the States and UT’s to set up anti-trafficking human units (AHTUs) to combat and prevent human trafficking[10]. “Domestic Violence, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect and other forms of trauma and violence makes a person vulnerable to human trafficking…Children and youth are more likely to be persuaded or tricked by criminals who take advantage of their emotional stability and missing support system”, the advisory stated.

Moreover, On March 21, 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs again asked the States as well as UT’s to take necessary steps for preventing and combating crimes against vulnerable sections of the society[11].

What has the Law Commission recommended?

The Law Commission of India, in its 146th report, has recommended that punishment for the sale of a person above the age of 18 years and the sale of adults for the purpose be added to the IPC[12]. It has recommended that a new section, Section 373A, be added. Its drafts say Section 373A should make it any offence if anyone a) sells, let to hire or otherwise disposes of, for consideration any person under 18 years of age or women of any age; or b) buys, hires or otherwise obtains for consideration the possession of any such persons or any woman.

Its drafts for Section 373A (2) say this section also apply to a person of unsound mind. It recommends a ten-year jail term for this and a fine. It has also recommended that unsound mind persons in Sections 372 and 373, be added.

Conclusion

Child prostitution in India is a dark reality that is highly prevalent in India and adversely impacts the life of the child. Different provisions have been framed with the intention of saving the children from exploitation but with the world-changing at a fast pace, they seem to lag. There are multifarious challenges from different standpoints such as socio-legal challenges and often these challenges intermingle with each other. The way by which such cases are dealt with is by reducing the faith of the victims in the justice system of the country.

To safeguard the children from prostitution, a few steps need to be taken. The spread of awareness through education is the most important one. Education programs should be organized to teach society at large how to prevent commercial sexual exploitation. Families need to know the full extent of commercial sexual exploitation if they are to protect their children. They should not neglect the child as its effects the whole life of a child. Children should be enabled to choose a way of life of human dignity.

This would allow greater participation of the children in the process of evolution and innovation. Laws should not only focus on the change of attitude but shall impose such strict punishments, that they set an example for the onlookers also refraining them from indulging in similar activities.


References:

[1] Kapil Kajal, “Sex Workers, High-Risk for COVID-19, Seek Government Help” IndiaSpend, April 17, 2020, available at Click Here

[2] Child Maltreatment, Available at Click Here

[3] The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, available at Click Here

[4] United Nation Conventions on the Right of the Child, available at Click Here

[5] The Indian Penal Code, 1860, “Chapter XVI – Offence Affecting the Human Body”, available at Click Here

[6] The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, available at Click Here

[7] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, available at Click Here

[8] The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, “Chapter II Sexual Offences Against Children”, available at Click Here

[9] The Constitution of India, arts. 15(3), 21 and 23, available at Click Here

[10] Deeksha Bhardwaj, “MHA asks states to set up more anti-trafficking units in wake of COVID-19” Hindustan Times, Jul 15, 2020, available at Click Here

[11] Bharti Jain, “Protect Kids Orphaned by COVID-19, women & ‘vulnerable sections’: MHA to states, UTs” Times of India, May 21, 2021, available at Click Here

[12] 146th Report of Law Commission of India, available at Click Here


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Updated On 2022-01-31T18:50:36+05:30
Satwinder Singh

Satwinder Singh

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