Public hearing report on Police Violence on Women and Transgender Sex Workers

PUCL-Karnataka, Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Alternative Law Forum, Janasahayog and CIEDS

This Report argues that it is the responsibility of the police to enforce constitutional morality and not social morality. The report is released with the hope that it educates and sensitizes the public on matters concerning the constitutional rights of sex workers and the police takes the necessary steps to enforce the same”.

On March 5, 2019, a jury was constituted to understand the nature of issues faced by women and transgender sex workers in Bangalore. The jury, headed by Justice H N Nagmohandas, Retired Judge, Karnataka High Court, also attempted to propose solutions for the police violence faced by women in sex work. The jury suggested long term as well as immediate recommendations to ameliorate the grueling and inhumane conditions faced by women and transgender sex workers.

The jury relied on the testimonies of violence given by sex workers themselves. It also studied the position of sex workers under international law, Indian laws and traced its history and development through ancient and contemporary India. The report, which reflects the findings of the jury, also took into consideration the regulation of sex work through criminal laws. The report emphasised on the distinction between trafficking and sex work – the former being a cruel and atrocious crime and the latter, a matter of personal liberty and choice. It warned against the conflation of both these terms by legislation and law-enforcers alike. It lamented at the lack of awareness amongst police about the nature of sex work and their blatant disrespect about the autonomy of women and transgenders. The jury, through the report, condemned the use of moral-policing bodies, namely ObavvaPade by the police in Bangalore. Along with the same, the misuse of Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act and lodging of false cases by the police was . also strongly denounced by the jury. The observations of the jury were constitutionally backed by the fundamental rights conferred by Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(d) and 21.

The report gives an insight into the injustice suffered by sex workers by police and their loss of autonomy and personal liberty at the hands of law-enforcing agencies and moral-policing bodies. This is mainly due to the fact that the police function on the basis of social morality This Report argues that it is the responsibility of the police to enforce constitutional morality and not social morality. The report is released with the hope that it educates and sensitizes the public on matters concerning the constitutional rights of sex workers.

Recommendations made by Jury

Immediate Recommendation for Police Reforms in Karnataka

1. The police should forthwith disband vigilante force such as the Obayva Pade and ensure that all police action is henceforth undertaken within the framework of the Constitution

2. The police at all levels should strictly follow the interpretation of the import and ambit of penal provisions in the ITPA as laid down in the Circular of the DGP, Karnataka in 2004.

3. The police administration should appoint a Standing Committee comprising Station House Officers and human rights and social activists to promptly investigate reports ol gross abuses by the police against sex workers in public areas and police stations, and the guilty policeman immediately punished.

4. The police administration should adopt transparency in their dealings with sex workers and make available all information relating to procedures and penalties uscd in detaining sex workers

5. Protection and safety should be ensured for sex workers to prevent rape in police custody and in jail.

6. Transgenders should not be sent into male cells with other men in order to prevent harassment, abuse and rape.

7. The police at all levels should undergo sensitization workshops for police by human rights groups/trans rights groups in order to break down their social prejudices and to train them to treat sex workers within the frame of constitutional morality and not social morality.

8. Practice of detaining sex workers for hours, without any charge or reason and, Collection of ‘FINES’ from sex workers where neither receipts are given nor records made, should be stopped forthwith.

9. Cases of Intimidation or harassment of women or transgenders in street based sex work by police personnel using threats or abusive language or chasing in the streets or any other
physical violations, should be treated as punishable under Section 354 of the IPC and action should be taken against the concerned police personnel.

10. State Legal Aid Authority should conduct workshops for police personnel in all stations on the law and on the proper use that does not criminalize sex work.

Long Term Legal Measures

1. The Immoral Trafficking in Persons Act, 1956 should be repealed. Sex work should be decriminalized, and legal and other kinds of discrimination against sex workers should be brought to an end

2. Section 375 of the IPC, which defines the offence of rape’, should be amended and a comprehensive sexual assault law should be enacted to protect all persons such that transgender persons are also protected from sexual assault.

3. In accordance with the NALSA 57 judgment, every person must have the right to decide their gender expression and identity, including transsexuals, transgenders, transvestites and hijras. They should also have the right to freely express their gender identity. This includes the demand for hijras to be considered female as well as a third sex.

4. In accordance with the NALSA 58 judgments civil rights under law such as the right to get a passport, ration card, make a will, inherit property and adopt children must be available to all regardless of change in gender/sex identities.

City Today News



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