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Women free to choose vocation: HC

September 26, 2020 06:52 AM

COURTESY HT SEPT  26

Women free to choose vocation: HC
Kanchan Chaudhari

letters@hindustantimes.com

Mumbai : Adult women detained under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act cannot be detained without their consent, the Bombay high court ruled on Thursday, and set free three women from Uttar Pradesh who have been detained at a women’s hostel since October 19, 2019. The court observed in the course of the proceedings that prostitution isn’t an offence under the law, and that a woman has the right to choose her vocation.

Justice Prithviraj Chavan said the purpose and the object of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (PITA), 1956, is not to abolish prostitution. “There is no provision under the law which makes prostitution per se a criminal offence or punishes a person because he indulges in prostitution,” said the judge.

Clarifying that what is punishable under the law is exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purposes and soliciting in public places, the court set free the three young women, aged 20, 22 and 23, respectively.

The women were picked up by the social service branch of the Mumbai police from Chincholi Binder area in Malad, in September 2019, after laying a trap using a decoy customer. They were produced before a metropolitan magistrate, who remanded them to a women’s hostel and called for a report from a probation officer.

The probation officer’s report revealed that the women were from a community from Kanpur, and there was a long tradition of prostitution in the community.

On October 19, 2019, the magistrate refused to hand over the custody of the women to their respective mothers saying that it was not in the interest of the women to stay with their parents. The magistrate, instead, directed that the women be kept at a women’s hostel in Uttar Pradesh. The women moved the HC through advocate Ashok Saraogi after the magistrate’s order was upheld by Dindoshi sessions court on November 22, 2019.

The high court on Thursday struck down both the orders. “It is important to note that the petitioners/victims are major and, therefore, have a right to reside at the place of their choice, to move freely throughout the territory of India and to choose their own vocation,,” said the judge. The court said the magistrate ought to have considered the willingness of the women before ordering their detention. It added the magistrate appeared to be swayed by the fact that the petitioners belong to a particular caste that had a history of initiating girls into prostitution.

The bench added the state can seek directions from the court to send them to corrective homes, but that their fundamental rights stand on a higher pedestal than any other general law

 
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