Immoral Traffic – Prostitution In India
A humanitarian perspective of immoral trafficking
IMMORAL TRAFFIC Prostitution in India: An Eye-opener to Guardians of Law and Morals: V. Sithannan; Jeywin Publications. Part law, part sociology, this voluminous tome is essentially a law enforcer s view of the oldest profession in the world and how society reacts to it. V. Sithannan, a serving police officer in Chennai, uses his experience in the Crime, Law and Order and Intelligence wings of the city police and Vigilance department, to hold forth on what, from a rights perspective, is referred to as commercial sex work . Being a lawyer by qualification, he lays on thick Acts, laws, government orders relevant to the issue. No doubt of great use not only to law enforcers but a lesson, in more ways than one, to even activists working in the area. Starting out with the avowed intention of sensitising police officers, advocates, judicial officers, social activists, NGOs, policymakers and the public on various aspects of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, the book perhaps succeeds. History The first section of the book is a recreation of the history of commercial sex work, with the author rewinding as far back as the Stone Age. He also makes an attempt to link the profession with the status women have been accorded in society over the ages; the commodification she has been subject to right through. If you expect a non-moralistic point of view, however, this book is not for you, because even on the cover of the book, he makes clear: An eye opener to guardians of law and morals. The author also discusses issues such as conjugal relations, extramarital relations, mutual consent of both sexual partners, immorality, chastity and sexually transmitted diseases. Generous with adjectives, he is at the same time incisive when the policeman in him talks: … The State cannot be a silent spectator of prostitution, as an institution, not only affects the persons involved in it, especially women and children. A substantial portion of the rather slim first part of the book dwells on HIV/AIDS and the transmission of that virus through the sexual route. As he slips into the legal section the author seems to get more comfortable. Especially the fifth chapter, which contains in neat bullet points the legal position of various nations on immoral traffic, makes for interesting reading too. Detailed definitions, legal clauses, explanations on appropriate documentation, trafficking of women and children, legal authorities competent to handle such cases, follow in the latter half of the book. Notably, he has provided a list of NGOs working in the area of trafficking, with contact addresses and numbers. The book comes at a time when a humanitarian, victim s perspective is trying to edge into law enforcement too. The rights, rescue and rehabilitation of the victims, commercial sex workers, are no doubt a key part of the enforcement of the ITP Act. At such a time, this book lends more grist to the mill of the activists, this time, policemen-activists. RAMYA KANNAN. –Review by ‘The Hindu’- India’s National News Paper
To be frank, I took this book most reluctantly. The subject is dry – discussing in an unsavoury statute, and rules and rulings completely masking the inhumanity of man to women on the specious plea that the policeman and courts are saving the community from the perils of dark sin. The irony is, I put this book down most reluctantly! Bernard Shaw defending Mrs Warrens Profession has not bettered Sithannan s work under review. The author has vast experience as a practising policeman interrupted by a fruitful pedagogic spell. He is primarily a social scientist with a sensitive heart and a felicitous pen, or one may say an oxymoron. Instead of talking about crime and stern punishment, he begins so to say, with a biblical quote, He who hath not sinned, let him cast the first stone. I was thrilled, for I have had the same feelings in my early service days, having read Mrs Warren s Profession and shared Shavian views. That victims are invariably punished for the sin of being born poor, haunts you through this book. Convictions of prostitutes are alarmingly high. Young women are lured to cities under the mistaken impression that there is always some attractive employment, or in many cases tempted by offers of situations which are really traps set for them by agents of white slave traffic. To send them to jail is the pure miscarriage of justice. That a police officer should boldly highlight these outrageous results of prosecutions under the Immoral Traffic Act is brave and especially praiseworthy. The book has a classical quality and is affluent with so much of facts rarely found in law books. And the author s concern and compassion towards these victims of the lust of men need to be shared by the magistracy and emulated by police officers. Be firm with the sharks living on the wages of sin, treat the true victims (though offenders in the eye of a Pharisee) with compassion and do not humiliate them is the message that Sithannan conveys. He alerts us to the increasing hazards of unregulated commercial sex with alarming statistics. The remedy is rehabilitation without diminishing the dignity of the girl, and that is what a progressive society with a social conscience strives for. Sithannan has produced a remarkable book that is so useful, exceedingly readable and just un-putdownable. —Review by V.R. Lakshminnarayanan IPS, Director General of Police Retd.
There is a welcome trend discerned in the recent past of police officers becoming researchers and book writers on socially sensitive subjects like human rights, gender justice and humanitarian law. However, one regrets to find that the average policeman in India is as uncivil as ever when he deals with the weaker sections of society. The National Police Commission long ago acknowledged the malaise and sought to correct it by asking for a series of reforms both in law and practice of police administration. It goes to the credit of officers like V. Sithannan of the Tamilnadu Police who try to make a difference in police behaviour vis-à-vis women and children despite institutional constraints and policy uncertainties. The book on immoral traffic well written and nicely produced is indeed an eye-opener to guardians of Law and Morals as claimed on the title page itself. The author finds in his study that the legislation by itself is an inadequate instrument for dealing with immoral traffic for sexual purposes. An overwhelming percentage of cases prosecuted under the Act for the relatively minor offences under Section 8(a) and (b) (soliciting in public places); there is hardly any case charged under any other section of the Act! This according to him is the result of inadequate understanding of the purpose of the law, faulty investigation of cases under the Act and insensitivity of officers and others involved to the human rights and humanitarian dimensions of the problem. The author argues that the genesis of non-enforcement or misguided enforcement of the law is the product of a certain mindset and an attitude of indifference and non-sensitivity. In other words, the entire motivation for writing the book is a natural response of a sensitive mind seeking to influence and change the prevailing attitude among fellow-professionals within and outside the police force. The check-list for investigating officers contained in the volume is the first step in injecting professionalism in them. To make the discussion in context and to enable the other players in the legal system to understand the socio-historical background of the law, the author has not only explained commercialized prostitution in its various forms but also brought out its relation to sexually transmitted diseases. The conceptual differences and relationship between prostitution and trafficking are discussed in the book. Special attention is given to child trafficking. The major contribution of the study is its exposition of the role of police officers through analysis of the statute and cases booked under it particularly in Tamilnadu. It is a book containing such useful information on the strengths and weaknesses of the enforcement system that it can be a training tool not only for police personnel but also to prosecutors and judges. I have no doubt that it is an excellent addition to the existing literature on the subject and will be welcomed by the legal community concerned with the vexed issue of commercial sex and human trafficking. I would recommend Mr Sithannan when writing a new edition, to look at sentencing patterns in trafficking cases and disposition orders of those rescued from brothel houses. The remedial and restorative jurisprudence is hardly developed in this country. A victim orientation in judicial proceedings is the need of the hour. And this is the function of both law and the attitude of the enforcers of the law as correctly perceived by the author. I congratulate Mr V. Sithannan for his scholarly effort and wish him a satisfying career both in policing and in scholarly writing. —Prof. Dr N.R. Madhava Menon