Forced prostitution is a gruesome act and its menace has an untamed effect on these innocent lives. Even though Munni’s cries were unheard but her single voice helped in saving so many cries. People should become courageous like Munni and fight this veracity of forced prostitution.
Though we are taught that society is growing and evolving and that the world in which we live is beautiful. However, the sad truth is that somewhere at the core, the mindset of the society is similar to that of the society in the state of nature, which was used to be filled with chaos. Still, today we could see individuals abusing other individuals, taking advantage of their innocence and the hardships they face. On a similar theme is the story of the 16-year-old girl, named Munni. A girl whose life, though began from the womb of a mother, but ended in the dingy room of a brothel where lied her unheard cries.
Munni was a very lively and ambitious girl. She used to live with her parents in a small house in the countryside. Being the only child, the love of her parents did not get divided, and they used to do all they were capable of even when they were facing economic hardships. Living in the plight of poverty she always wished to become a big star and aimed for a luxurious lifestyle. She used to envisage her utopian world to her mother. One fine morning, when Munni was strolling in the fields, her life took a turn as she met a boy named Sonu. Sonu was 24 years old and was not a native of the village. They used to spend time together and gradually her friendship grew with him. He used to talk about the glamours of the outside world, which used to lure Munni more.
After a few days, Sonu started asking Munni whether she would come with him to explore the world and told her that he would get her one of the roles in a movie as he has some connections in the film industry. This pushed Munni into a dilemma as on one side, there was her family who cared for her so much and on the other was the gate to her dreams. Munni, with the thought that she will make her family proud and support them economically, decided to elope with Sonu. Eventually, on the next day they eloped. The first week of Munni in Bombay was full of excitement but this bubble of happiness didn’t last long. Sonu in the name of getting her a role in a movie sold Munni to one of the brothels in the city.
From that day, the innocence of Munni was snatched away as she was served before a number of customers. Now she was just looked like flesh for enjoyment rather than a human being. She attempted to escape from the brothel, but all those attempts went into despair. After few years she lost the battle and accepted her fate as a prostitute. One morning, a person brought a 13-year-old child to sell at the brothel where Munni was working. Munni was given the responsibility to prepare the child by the end of the next week. After spending a day with that child, Munni saw her own reflections in the girl and decided that the girl’s fate would not end the way it ended for her and hence, she searched for help. By now she was a part of the trap, so she knew how to contact someone from outside but also knew the consequences of attempting the same. However, the innocence of that child gave her courage and Munni tried contacting a social worker who could help her in saving the life of that child. It wasn’t easy to get help, and she had only a week. After making a lot of attempts, she finally met Mrs. Renuka who was working for women’s rights through an NGO. To her, Munni explained her story and told her about the minor girl and requested to help her in any way she can.
Mrs. Renuka after analyzing the situation came to an understanding that without the support of a lawyer it would be nearly impossible to rescue the girl child from that brothel. So, she contacted Mrs. Rekha who was a lawyer, and explained the facts and circumstances to her. Mrs. Rekha assured Renuka that there are provisions in place to rescue Munni and every other girl who is the victim of forced prostitution and explained to her the relevant provisions under which perpetrators, such as the brothel owners, pimps, traffickers and even family members if they force them to indulge in such activities, could be punished.
The Constitution of India, 1949
The Indian Constitution prohibits trafficking in persons and guarantees many of the internationally recognized human rights norms. Article 23(1) deals with the prohibition of trafficking in human beings, beggars and other similar forms of forced labour. And any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law under Article 23(2). It also ensures a person’s right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and provides equal treatment to everybody under Article 14. Further, it provides the right to freedom under Article 19. Most importantly, these provisions in no manner discriminate any individual from any social group of the society.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
The Indian Penal Code (“IPC”) also deals with prostitution and restricts any form of child prostitution. Section 366A of the IPC provides that if any person induces any girl to go from any location or to do any act with the intent or knowledge that she will be forced or seduced to have illicit intercourse with another person, that person shall be punished with 10 years of imprisonment and shall also be liable to a fine. The legislature has made provisions even for those girls who are imported into India with the intent or knowledge that they will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse. Section 366B of IPC punishes such a person with up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine. Further, Section 370A of IPC states that whoever knows that a minor has been trafficked and engages that minor for sexual exploitation would be punished with rigorous imprisonment for not less than five years, and it may even extend to ten years, and they would also be liable to a fine. Among the different sections of IPC protecting minor girls against prostitution, there are two specific sections that make our case strong. Firstly, Section 372 of IPC punishes all the persons who are involved in selling or letting on hire minor girls for prostitution and shall be punished with up to 10 years of imprisonment. Secondly, Section 373 of IPC punishes any person who buys a minor for the purpose of prostitution shall be punished with imprisonment for ten years.
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
This legislation was passed to put restrictions on prostitution, and it penalizes acts related to prostitution. Section 3 of the Act penalizes for keeping a brothel or allowing any premises to be used as a brothel. Section 4 of the Act penalizes any person who is living on the earnings of prostitution. Section 5 of the Act penalizes the procuring, inducing or taking person for the sake of prostitution.
Even the judiciary has not turned its eyes and understands the plight of prostitutes. In Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court observed that prostitutes or sex workers are also human beings, and no one has a right to assault or murder them, they have the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The court empathized with the plight and difficulties of the workers and that they are compelled to indulge in prostitution. The court also directed the Union Government and State Governments to open rehabilitation centers and teach them various technical and vocational skills, such as sewing, so that they can make a living through other methods. After Supreme Court’s ruling Section 21 was incorporated in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act as rule for the state governments to establish a protection home and should be regulated with proper licenses. Under this Section, an appropriate authority will be chosen for conducting the investigation for the applications of license. Also, the court in Guria, Swayam Sevi Sansthan v. State of U.P. & Ors, said that the pimps and traffickers who are charged under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act should be dealt with utmost strictness as they enhance the immoral traffic of prostitution which is an act against society and if they are released, these individuals will resume their criminal activities since they have no other business.
Miss Rekha and Renuka filed a police complaint, upon which the police conducted a raid on the said brothel. The owner was apprehended under Section 3 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and the person who brought the girl to the brothel was charged under Section 5 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 for inducing the girl for prostitution. Later, they were convicted and punished under Sections 366A, 370A, 372 and 373 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In this way, Munni and the girl including all other females who were illegally detained at the brothel were rescued with the help of the law.
–Avni Kumar Srivastava and Jahanvi Jajoo