Blowing the whistle the pro-victim way Print E-mail
The Hindu -- Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Tamil Nadu
Blowing the whistle the pro-victim way

R. Ilangovan

SALEM: : In what is being described as a "refreshingly radical" approach in tackling the problems of prostitution and trafficking, the Tamil Nadu police have decided to tighten their noose on pimps, middlemen, brothel runners and traffickers, instead of "mechanically rounding up the women."

This far-reaching move, worked out by the "think-tank" of the State's police administration, is also meant to bolster the image of the force among the women and their groups and turn the focus on the "middlemen." A senior police official told The Hindu that the personnel in Anti-Trafficking Cell and Anti-Vice Squad have been instructed on the need for adopting this "pro-victim" approach seriously. "We will go after the pimps and middlemen who exploit these women for commercial gains, mostly against their will," said the officer.

The police are now empowered to use the Goondas' Act against these "unscrupulous elements." And while raiding brothel houses, if minor girls are found to be victims, Section 376 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for charges of rape will be registered against the customers, pimps, organisers and traffickers. Clear instructions on "not to harass the women unnecessarily" have also been issued.

Soul-searching analysis
This perceptible change is the result of a soul-searching analysis of the performance of the police, particularly with reference to the implementation of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (ITPA), 1986. The soaring number of detentions, 90 per cent of them women — highest among the States — under Sec 8 and 4 of the Act, and the dismal conviction ratio has made them review their approach. The women arrested for prostitution get enlarged on bail immediately, with the assistance of these pimps, who however remain elusive to the clutches of law.

Women activists hope that this approach will ensure a responsive police in the area where the rights of women and children are blatantly violated. "It will prevent the `re-victimisation' of the victims [women and children in prostitution] and stop them from being treated as criminals," says A. Renganathan, a social activist who counsels commercial sex workers here.

Tamil Nadu has given its go-ahead for the sweeping amendments to the ITP Act, which lays stress on the stringent punishment for those who are using the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. "The decision will snap the unholy nexus between the police and pimps and stop the abuse of sex workers under the garb of raids," says the activist.