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Fatima Nat Dhuniya was all of 9 years when she was “married off” and then landed in the world of sex trade. More than a decade later, she stands confident as a community mobiliser and said that the laws in the country should change so that the client is punished and not the victim.

 “As long as there is a buyer, the prostitution system can never be dismantled,” Dhuniya said at a press meet here Tuesday.

Dhuniya and 60 other delegates, including survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution and members of the civil society from 11 countries working on the issue, came together for a four-day conference in the capital.

Some of the countries whose delegates participated in the conference included the Phillipines, Taiwan, Nepal and Korea.

“It’s like this – in a shop if there is no customer then the shop will ultimately close. So, in the sex trade if the client is punished, the trade will also come to an end. Most of the girls are forced in the trade and exploited,” said Dhuniya, who escaped from the clutches of prostitution with the help of an NGO and now helps other victims to do the same.

Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an NGO which organised the conference, said: “Most of the sex workers we meet tell us that the police only victimises them. What’s the point in victimising the victims? The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act should be changed to hold clients accountable.”

Aurora J. De Dios, president of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Asia Pacific, said: “This is the first time our survivors are coming together to talk about common issues and challenges that they face and the ways of dealing with these problems and trying to solve them”.

Gupta said that the survivors of sex trafficking want their perpetrators, who repeatedly raped them, to be punished, not because of what they did to them but because it will serve as a deterrent to the perpetuation of the sex industry.

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