Prostitutes account for 3 million of the total population, with 35.47% entering the trade without attaining the age of majority. Today, their condition has got more worsened, the moment we say prostitute to a lady, her character assassination starts at the very moment. People don’t want to ponder on the issue that what has led to the lady to continue the profession. Their health is always at stake as they are exposed to unhygienic environment, no use of precautions by male clients, and high chances of getting them infected through STDs. They get ostracized from the mainstream society. The concept of consent can be easily understood here from their nature of work, what they gave is reluctant consent because at the end of the day, they too have to fill in their stomachs. The main problem lies here is with the legislature of India either they are reluctant to legalise this profession or are too wary to not to touch this topic to avoid from any controversy as their vote bank might be affected by their decision and will not choose them for the next term. In this article, I have tried to analyse their problems and can they be rectified through awareness programs and legalisation of their profession.
Sonagachi in Kolkata, Kamthipura in Mumbai, G.B road in New Delhi are the some of the brothels that host thousands of sex workers in India.
CURRENT SCENARIO OF PROSTITUTES:-
The current position of prostitutes is very heart-wrenching; it’s been deteriorating from time to time.
In brothels they are provided with very small rooms, they have to wear a heavy makeup and had to work according to their clients. Many times they are beaten up by their clients and are paid less than what they deserve especially when army men or politician come to their place. The prostitutes are not even provided with a protection and are exposed to Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The lives of a children of prostitutes is not easy, if they are not going to school, they might be working as pimps for their mother and when they are in school, they have to face a lot of discrimination and difficulty in studies as in a report, “Uncovering the realities of prostitutes and their children in a cross national comparative study between India and US” by hena john fisk, Udar who is in 8th grade finds it difficult to study in brothel and has to go different places for studying. Also, two-third of the population of this industry was forced into this either by trafficking, kidnapping or they were married at an early age of 10-15 or their parents has sold them.
SOCIAL CAUSES FOR PROSTITUTION IN INDIA:
Poverty is one of the major causes of prostitution in India. Because of poverty women are generally illiterate or semiliterate due to which they cannot gain employment to sustain themselves and their family and decides to sell their bodies. Often parents sell their children to human traffickers so that they can get some money to sustain themselves. Poor young girls are often lured by brothel owners or human traffickers in the guise of fancy employment. A research article, “A qualitative examination of women involved in prostitution in Mumbai, India: The role of family and acquaintances” poverty has been considered as an attribute to this profession. One woman named Jasmin said that in an interview for the research paper, “I was earlier working as a fisherwoman. I used to carry my son (who was a baby then, now he is 14 years old) to the fish market and used to place him near me. Here the cold water from the ice would flow and he used to catch a cold as he used to be lying on it. As a result, I needed money for his treatment. I had no option other than prostitution.
This is perhaps the most important cause of prostitution in India. Young girls are trafficked from the various parts of India and then are sold to various brothels. The girls generally are below the age of 18 years. The research article mentioned above conducted their research on the 48 women. They found that out of 48 women, 24 were trafficked below the age of 18. And 9 were above the age of 18 years.
LAWS GOVERNING PROSTITUTION IN INDIA:
There is no specific law which deals with prostitution only. However, it comes under the purview of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956.This act does not criminalize prostitution per se but mostly punishes the third parties which facilitate it like brothel owners, pimp. Sec 3 of the ITPA deals with punishment regarding this.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO REHABILITATE THE SEXUAL WORKERS?
Either Woman enters voluntarily or non-voluntarily to this flesh trade work, they submit themselves to this profession because there are no job opportunities for them, society’s down attitude towards them and most importantly fear of disownment from the society. Here are some of the suggestions which should be looked into –
Social Awareness programs –
The core problem related to this issue is low or no acceptance from the society, due to which they fear to move to the mainstream society and wants to remain confined to those areas only as they knew that society is going to look down upon them. There is serious need that govt. in collaboration with NGOs should conduct awareness programs and campaigns and should educate people how to conduct themselves with these women. We need to educate people that their body is pure as their body and circumstances had led them to come to this profession and they need to respect the fact they too are the important part of society. School textbooks should include this profession and develop a positive attitude in students towards this profession.
School Education –
Those girls who are minor and have been forcibly entered this flesh trade should be provided with school education by Central and State Govt. funded schemes and programs. So that the girls can choose their career freely based on their education and interests.
Vocational and Technical Training –
Women should be provided vocational and educational training so that they can sustain themselves and their family. The training should be provided at affordable cost or through govt. funded schemes.
WHY PROSTITUTION NEEDS TO BE LEGALISED:-
Let’s take the case of Netherlands where prostitution is legalised – opening a brothel in the Netherlands requires a license, according to govt. Guidelines. If you are forcing someone who is below 18 there or against their will into prostitution, then they have to face 18 years of prison, the minimum age there is 21 years to be engaged in this profession. According to Dutch govt. The licensing system will help them to regulate the industry and bring down the rates of illegal transportation of minors. Their industry is regulated under labour laws which mean they will be getting protection as labour got in their country, they pay taxes as a normal citizen of their country. The relationship between prostitute and brothel owner is same as the employer-employee relationship, also legalisation has brought the cases of HIV/AIDS there.
The debate to legalise prostitution in India arose in 2014 and after that,there is no progress in this debate. In 2014 the then chairman of national commission for women LalithaKumaramanglam and chairman of All India Network of Sex Workers argued that by legalising this profession will bring down the human trafficking and will reduce the exposure to STDs. Mayank Austen Soofi who has written in-depth about the brothels of G.B road supports the legalisation as according to him many prostitutes hesitates to go to the doctor. They fear to go to police in case of harassment as their landlord will expel them from their house. The legalisation is going to reduce the trafficking of minors as many of prostitutes who are in this industry started working when they were in their teens. Also, it will fix the pay for them and will keep a check on harassment. It would give them employment rights, safety rights, health benefits etc. And the most important thing it will give them right to their body means no one can force them to have sex.
WHY PROSTITUTION IS NOT LEGALISED IN INDIA:
There are not any concrete arguments as for why prostitution is not legalised in India but the major issue which stands in the way to legalise it is sex is considered taboo in India. Government is also reluctant towards this issue as this faction of society is not considered as a vote bank to the government. They know very well that legalising this profession will unnecessarily create controversy among the major faction of society who does not want this profession to be legalised. Also, the fear of losing vote bank makes the government to remain silent on this issue.
Prostitution, being the most hated profession is feeding the large number of stomachs and their families yet not has been able to get the respect it should. Society forgets that it is men because of whom this profession is still continuing not of because of the women. Men went to these places to satisfy their lust but the cost is paid by the women because at the end patriarchy is the dominant feature of this society. Legalisation of this profession will atleast help them to get the recognition of which they are entitled for since the ages as Justice Indu Malhotra on her recent judgement on section 377 quoted the lines “History owes an apology to the members of this [LGBTQIA] community” same is the case with this profession until the legalisation is done, we can’t bring any respect to the women who are engaging in this profession.
Similarly, retd. Santosh Hegde Justice of Supreme Court shared his views on legalising of this profession said, “It has to be legalised. It’s going on everywhere. What’s the big idea of..(keeping it illegal). It should be legalised”. “It (prostitution) has become a regular profession now. It should be legalised and people (engaged in prostitution) should be licensed.”
There are certain setbacks which could occur while legalising this, but by continuous check by the authorities can easily avoid these setbacks. What needed is the strong will from the political community of India who through their constant support to this profession can easily help in the legalisation of this profession.