When humans are traded for purposes like forced labour, sexual exploitation or slavery etc. illegally from one person to another, it is called human trafficking. Since such an act violates the movement of the person and also exploits him it becomes a crime. It is a heinous crime that has its roots in India from a very long time. Trafficking can take place not only inside the boundaries of the nation but also across the borders. There can be various motives behind human trafficking like forced marriages, organ donation, begging etc. But in order to eradicate this and to control the current situation, there is an urgent need to reform the laws and strictly apply them. Tragically, there is much more involvement of women and children in trafficking.

Trafficking and prostitution are not synonymous and have very different meanings. As per the current laws, prostitution becomes when a person has been commercially sexually exploited. Hence trafficking is a prior step to prostitution. People are moved from one place to another, hired and recruited for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Therefore, trafficking is the process and prostitution is the result. The rise in demand for commercial sexual activities leads to more cases of trafficking. As discussed earlier the motives behind trafficking can be numerous but the ITPA,1986 deals with only trafficking that lead to prostitution or commercial sexual exploitation. Under this act CSE in all forms is covered be it in a brothel, cars, massage parlour, bartending, tourist service etc. and the person in power has all powers to take action against these vicious acts. 

ITPA at a Glance

To curb this problem the government in 1956 passed the act Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 (SITA) which was later with amendments renamed as Immoral Traffic Prevention Act(ITPA) in 1986. However, this act only discusses the trafficking that leads to prostitution and not other crimes like child abuse, forced labour, organ donation etc.

The first section of the act lays down the measures for the illegality of prostitution and also for those who own the brothel or live on the earnings of that business etc. Another section talks about the act of persuading a child i.e. a person below 18 years into this heinous act of prostitution and can be punished for seven years or less. It also aims to deal with people who are not directly in that business like the transporters, keepers, managers etc so that every person involved in punished. 

Definition of Trafficking

The glimpse of the definition of trafficking but the original definition of ‘trafficking’ is given under the Goa Children’s Act, 2003. Although it aims to focus on child trafficking since it is too wide it covers all areas. As mentioned in Section 2(z) child trafficking can be defined as “the procurement, recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, legally or illegally, within or across borders, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for monetary gain or otherwise”.

Hence it can be clearly noticed as per the act that the following three are the essentials for trafficking:

1. Movement of person from one place to another– There must be movement of the victim from one place to another without his consent irrespective of the distance covered. 

2. Exploitation of the aggrieved person- It is essential that the trafficked person must be sexually exploited to be covered under ITPA. Again, it can occur at any place like a brothel, building etc.

3. Exploitation must be commercialised- The victim is considered as a commodity for use of sexual exploitation. The convicts must get profit out of the same business. There can be more than 1 person and they may also share the profit with the victim.

Important Sections of ITPA

*As per the section 5 of ITPA the trafficker could be anyone be it a male or female and there is no age prescribed for it. Also, the place of movement could be anywhere. Even fir the attempt of trafficking the ITPA provides punishment.

*Also, it has been mentioned in ITPA that the consent obtained under threat, coercion, pressure etc. are not accountable to trafficking. The mens rea again plays an important part here. 

*Trafficking is not a single-stage process. It includes a lot of people and places i.e. place of recruitment, transit, exploitation. There can be a lot of exploiters that include people at the brothel, a person in charge of brothel or dance bar, managers of the place, hoteliers etc. Some specific people are also included in ITPA like the keepers of the place used as mentioned in Section 3.1 of ITPA and person who detains the victim in those places as mentioned in Section 6, ITPA and the person who gives permission to use the place as mentioned in Section 3.2 ITPA and last that person who allows to use the public place as written in Section 7 ITPA.

*The ‘customer’ is that person who exploits the victim. He is due to whom there is demand for CSE and profit for the other parties. Also, those persons who directly or indirectly abet the exploitation of the victim in any are triable by the court under Section 3,4,5,6,7,9 of ITPA.

*The people who either live on the earnings of the brothel business or who are anyhow financially involved with the brothel can also be held liable under Section 4 ITPA.

*There are also various people involved in the conspiracy of human trafficking and they are punishable under Section 120 of IPC. As per the ITPA, all those who allow to use the place or who induces the person for prostitution or who live on earnings of this act are held as conspirators.

*It also aims to punish those who involve children in the prostitution and if any person is found with child in the brothel he can be punished for seven years extending to ten years with fine. And such a child would be kept with security.


The act, however, focuses on preventing such acts but also lacks somewhere that needs to be improved. The act of prostitution is not illegal but practising it in a brothel or within 200m of a public place is illegal. Hence this is a loophole that fails to recognise prostitution as a legitimate way of earning.

Also, the act fails to cover other areas of trafficking. The bill also does not mention the role and functions of the concerned authorities in detail. These are some of the issues in this act that needs to be covered up for better application

This article is written by Ishika Gupta pursuing BBA L.LB from Gitarattan International Business School.

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