The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, passed by the Parliament of India in 1956, aims to prevent ‘immoral traffic’ in women and girls.
18-page Act refers to ‘prostitution’ as “…the sexual exploitation or abuse of
persons for commercial purposes or for consideration in money or in any other
kind.” The law includes clauses on running
brothels, persons living off the earnings of prostitutes, procuring or
inducing persons to practice prostitution (terms used by the Act), rescuing and rehabilitating
persons employed in this work, and more.
It extends to the whole of India.
What does the Act define a brothel as?
A ‘brothel’ – according to the Act – refers to any portion of a house, room or place, which is used for sexual exploitation or abuse for the gain of another person, or for the mutual gain of two or more prostitutes.
Any person who keeps or manages a brothel, or assists in such activities, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least a year and at most three years, as well as a fine of up to Rs. 2,000. For subsequent convictions, such persons shall be liable to be imprisoned for at least two years and at most five years and a fine of up to Rs. 2,000.
If any tenant, occupier or person in charge of any premises, uses or knowingly allows another person to use the place as a brothel, they shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of up to Rs. 2,000. For subsequent convictions, such persons shall be liable to be imprisoned for up to five years, along with a fine. The same punishment shall apply to an owner or landlord of a premises, or the agent of such an owner or landlord, who leases the place knowing that it is intended to be used as a brothel.
What does the Act say about persons living off the earnings of prostitution?
Any person over the age of 18 who knowingly lives – wholly or in part – on the earnings of the prostitution of another person, shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to to two years, or fined up to Rs. 1,000, or both. If such earnings relate to the prostitution of a child (a person below 16 years) or minor (between 16 and 18 years), the person shall be punishable with imprisonment for seven years at least and 10 years at most.
Unless proved otherwise, it shall be presumed that a person is knowingly living on the earnings of prostitution if they are proved to be living with or ‘habitually in the company of’ a prostitute; to have exercised control or influence over the movements of a prostitute, in relation to aiding, abetting or compelling them to engage in prostitution; or to be acting as a pimp on behalf of a prostitute.
What are the penalties for procuring or detaining persons for prostitution?
If anyone procures or attempts to procure a person for prostitution, with or without the person’s consent, they shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least three years and not more than seven years, and a fine of up to Rs. 2,000. If the offence is committed against the will of the person, the imprisonment may extend to 14 years. The same punishment applies to anyone who causes or induces a person to carry on with prostitution, or induces a person to leave a place to engage in prostitution, or frequent or stay in a brothel.
If any such offence is committed against a child, the offender shall be liable to imprisonment for at least seven years and it may extend to a life sentence. If the offence is committed against a minor, the offender shall be liable to imprisonment for at least seven years and at most 14 years.
If anyone detains another person – with or without their consent – in a brothel or other premises with the intent that the person may have sexual intercourse with someone who is not their spouse, they shall be liable to be imprisoned for at least seven years and it may extend into a life sentence, or for a term which may extend to 10 years along with a fine. The court may, for adequate and special reasons, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years. Unless the contrary is proved, any person found with a child in a brothel shall be presumed to have committed an offence under this section – section 6(1).
If a child or minor found in a brothel is detected to have been sexually abused on medical examination, it shall be presumed – unless proved otherwise – that they have been detained for prostitution or sexually exploited for commercial purposes.
It shall be presumed that a person has detained a woman or girl in a brothel or other premises for sexual intercourse with a man other than her spouse, with intent to compel or induce her to remain there, if they withhold from her any jewellery, apparel, money or other property belonging to her, or threaten her with legal proceedings if she takes away any such object lent or supplied to her by or under the direction of such person. No legal proceeding shall lie against a woman or girl who has been detained in this manner.
What is the Act’s mandate on prostitution in public places?
Any person that carries out or avails of prostitution in a premises that falls in an area notified under sub-section (3), or within a distance of 200 metres from a public place – including places of public religious worship, educational institutions, hostels, hospitals and nursing homes – shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to three months. Sub-section (3) says that the state government may issue a notification in The Gazette of India prohibiting prostitution from being carried out in certain areas in the state.
Anyone who – by words or gestures – tries to ‘tempt’ or ‘attract’ another person for the purpose of prostitution, in or within the sight of a public place, shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to a year, along with a fine of up to Rs. 500. The same punishment applies to anyone who solicits or molests another person, or acts ‘to offend against public decency’ or in such manner that causes ‘obstruction or annoyance’ to persons in a public place, for the purpose of prostitution. Where an offence under this section – section 8 – is committed by a man, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for at least seven days and it may extend to three months.
Focus and Factoids by Arunima Singh.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
30 Dec, 1956