Do not prosecute foreign sex workers: Centre to states

New Delhi: The Centre has asked all states to initiate deportation proceedings against any foreigner involved in prostitution if the woman is a victim of human trafficking rather than prosecuting her in a court.

In an advisory to all states, the Home Ministry said if after investigation, the woman or the child is found to be a victim, she should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act and immediate steps should be taken for her repatriation to her country of origin.

The move comes after many girls from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and even European countries were arrested in high-profile raids in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore recently. There were allegations that these girls travelled to India on tourist visas and were involved in flesh trade to cater to high-end clients. Delhi Police had last year unearthed such rackets in Delhi`s Greater Kailash, South Extension and Chhattarpur areas.

In February, a group of Ukrainian women gate-crashed into the Indian embassy in capital Kiev, tore down the tricolour and threw it on the ground to lodge their protest against an Indian directive that all Ukrainian women aged between 15 and 40 should be screened with extraordinary care when they apply for a visa to India.

The latest Home Ministry directive said if the probe reveals that the woman did not come to India or did not indulge in crime out of her free will, the state government should not file a charge sheet under the Foreigners Act and other relevant laws and steps should be taken to withdraw the case from prosecution so far as the victim is concerned.

Currently, foreign sex workers are booked for both immoral trafficking and under the Foreigners Act.
"Immediate action may be taken to furnish the details of such victims to the Ministry of External Affairs…so as to ensure that the person concerned is repatriated to the country of her origin through diplomatic channels," the Home Ministry directive said.

The Home Ministry conveyed to the states that immediately after a foreign national is apprehended on charges of human trafficking, a detailed interrogation and investigation should be carried out to ascertain whether the person concerned is a victim or a trafficker. "The victims and the persons actually involved in human trafficking should be treated differently by the police authorities. This is in line with the SAARC Convention which advocates a victim-centric approach," it said.

The advisory said if the investigation reveals that the person is actually a trafficker, he/she may be charge sheeted under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and the Foreigners Act and due process of law should be followed in such cases.

"In order to ensure better conviction rates of perpetrators of the crime of trafficking, prosecution should be based on documentary, forensic and material evidence. State Governments are advised to encourage the law enforcement agencies to investigate the cases in a manner that they are able to build fool-proof cases against the traffickers, so that convictions can be guaranteed," it said.

The memo says the decision has been taken with the approval of the `competent authority` – who can either be the Home Minister or the Home Secretary.