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Inter-ministerial meet discusses decriminalising sex work

By Ians

New Delhi, July 20: Suggestions to decriminalise sex work were made at an inter-ministerial meeting conducted by the Women and Child Development ministry here on Monday.

The meeting, in which experts from all over the country took part, was organised to discuss a report on the 'Status of Women in India' submitted by a high-level committee, headed by Pam Rajput.

The committee was set up in 2013 by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry.

Officials from various ministries and representatives of non-government organisations also attended the meet during which various issues concerning women were also discussed.

Various participants suggested to address the loopholes in the laws concerning sexual harassment at workplace and implementation of domestic violence laws.

It also discussed inclusive education and extending maternity benefits to adoptive and surrogate mothers among a slew of other measures.

Speaking on the occasion, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said the ministry is looking for long-term goals based on the committee's report. "We want to translate the recommendations into a solid action plan."

The Rajput Committe has submitted a wide-ranging report on policies concerning women on economic, legal, political, educational, health and socio-cultural factors.

The committee's recommendations include that the marital rape should be considered as an offence irrespective of the wife's age and the relationship between the perpetrator and survivor.

It has also suggested complete ban on the oral unilateral and triple divorce (talaq), pointing out that it makes wives extremely vulnerable and insecure regarding their marital status.

Described by some activists as a pro-women report, the Rajput Committee has also recommended to reduce the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years.

It has also suggested that rape by armed forces personnel in the place of or during their duty must be penalised and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) be revoked.

It says the definitions of "cruelty" under the anti-dowry act be expanded to include all forms of violence against women and the definition of dowry be expanded to include any property, valuable given directly or indirectly, before or after marriage in connection with marriage.

The committee also recommended amending Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to include maintenance of for women in live-in relationships.

The report said that honour crimes should be dealt with a separate legislation and barbaric practices like witch-hunting should invite stringent punishment.

It has also suggested regulating sale of acid and similar corrosive substances to prevent acid attacks on women. Besides, it also spells out pro-active policies for the most marginalised women (minorities, Dalits, Adivasis, differently-abled, single women and others).


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