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Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956

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What does the exploitation of prostitution mean? Why is prostitution considered a crime? Before we delve into answering these questions, it is important to understand the practice of prostitution and the reasons behind it. 

Prostitution refers to engaging in relatively indiscriminate sexual activity, in exchange for immediate payment of money or other valuables. A person who works in this field is called a prostitute and is a type of sex trafficking. Despite the sexual drive, the main reason behind prostitution is money. The sex workers earn their livelihoods by working as prostitutes in brothels. The money earned is used to pay for their food, housing, and to feed their children. Some even use it to pay for their drug abuse. 

Prostitution in India is legal. Sex trafficking in India is Governed by the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. Although sex trafficking is not illegal, however activities that support sex work such as, child prostitution, owning or managing a brothel or solicitation customers are punishable crimes. There are, however, many brothels operating in cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. 

Although current estimates of the total number of prostitutes in India is not available, a 2016 report submitted by UNAIDS, reported that there are 657,829 prostitutes in India, with 35.4% of the workers working are under the age of 18 years. 

India’s largest red-light districts are in Sonagachi in Kolkata, Sonapur in Mumbai, Kabadi Bazar in Meerut, that host thousands of sex workers. 

Laws and Rights of prostitution in India: 

The profession of prostitution has several limitations and restrictions. The laws based on prostitution are complex to interpret. The act which places restrictions on the profession is The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (TITA). Under this act, several activities related to prostitution such as running brothels, trafficking, pimping and soliciting are considered punishable offences. Different sections of the act place different restrictions on prostitution. Besides this act, the Indian Penal Code has various sections which all deal with prostitution, such as sections 372 and claims child prostitution to be illegal, sections 366A, 366B and 370A consider child prostitution, importation of girls from a foreign country for sex and exploitation of trafficked person as punishable offences. Furthermore, there are certain schemes available for sex workers to access vocational education. 

Prostitution as a profession is not a problem, but the crimes(sex trafficking) that the sex workers end up being the victims of is.

Prostitutes and their family members have all the rights that any citizen of India does, however, their voices are often left unheard. Moreover, a lot of victims of sex trafficking are not aware of the rights and laws which protect them. And thus, the necessary thing to do is spread awareness about these laws and rights especially among the people who are a part of the concerned profession, this would help the victims of sex trafficking to live a safer life.

Apne Aap Worldwide Founder, Ruchira Gupta

It’s past time for us to investigate this burgeoning problem. Each person can help this cause by being watchful in our neighbourhoods and reporting suspicious actions to authorities via hotline numbers. To improve society, various groups in our country are working on this issue. One of them is ‘Apne Aap.’ 

Apne Aap is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to alleviate poverty in India. Each topic is given a venue, allowing marginalized women and girls to share their stories and raise their voices against the daily cycles of abuse and prejudice they encounter.

Apne Aap Women Worldwide is an Indian activist organization that supports underprivileged girls and women to fight sex trafficking and put an end to it. They form small groups of poor girls and women for self-empowerment, and they work together to acquire legal, social, economic, and political rights. They’ve established 150 Self-Empowerment Groups in brothels, red-light districts, slums, and villages (SEGs). 

Apne Aap refers to a “Third Way” to address prostitution and sex trafficking. They conclude that being a prostitute or having to engage in similar ancillary activities like solicitation is not

punishable under the law. As a result, they’re attempting to decriminalize the prostitution of girls and women. Anyone who pays for sex is also to be prosecuted, according to the bill. 

We should now feel obligated to take necessary steps to prevent human trafficking in our everyday lives. Without a question, we live in a world that specializes in breaking individuals every day. Human trafficking is no longer a problem that can be solved by a few dedicated individuals or groups. Anyone may help to lessen the punishment.





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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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