A fact-finding report by PUCL Karnataka
The series of disturbing events in Channapatna commenced with the arrest on 2 June 2007 of four women under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and the consequent media exposure and trial of these women.
When a public protest was held to condemn the police complicity in converting what should have been a routine judicial process into a sensational trial by media, the protest was willfully disrupted with the protesters being beaten up in the very presence of the police by anti–social elements. These events constituted a disturbing pattern of state moralism and authoritarianism wherein all democratic means of expressing a political opinion were sought to be satisfled.
Being deeply concerned about this flagrant violation of the basic rights guaranteed in our Constitution to all citizens, the People’s Union For Civil Liberties-Karnataka (PUCL-K) constituted a fact-finding team which comprised representatives from human rights groups, lawyers groups, Dalit groups, unorganized workers as well as health groups to inquire into the above mentioned incidents. The fact finding team consisted of Ramdas Rao, Salma and Geeta from the PUCL-K, Divya Veerabhadra from Lawyers’ Collective, Yashoda from Karnataka Dalita Mahila Vedike (Karnataka Dalit Women’s Forum), Arvind Narrain and Aarti Mundkur from Alternative Law Forum, Jayaram from Garment and Textile Workers Union, and Vinay from Janarogya Andholana Karnataka (People’s Health Movement, Karnataka).
On 8 June 2007 the fact-finding team spoke to the women who were arrested under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 (ITPA), the protesters in the dharna who were beaten up, the Dy. S. P Halesh Naik and the probationary Dy. S. P. Devraj, the SP Bangalore city, representatives of civil society organizations in Channapatna such as Spandana (a women’s rights initiative) and Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS – Karnataka State Farmers Association) in order to determine if and how the basic rights guaranteed to all citizens have been violated in the case of women in sexwork.