lawyers in India

The problem of Prostitution an Indian perspective

Written by: Kaustubh Nandan Sinha - I am a final 5th year law student from New Law College Pune
Contract Law
Legal Service
  • A prostitute is a person, "who allows her body to be used for lewd purposes in return for payment". Prostitution is the sale of sexual services, such as oral sex or sexual intercourse, for money. Prostitution the word itself speaks about the plight of a women .It is not a problem which exists in India but exists throughout the world. Prostitution was a part of daily life in ancient Greece .In the more important cities, and particularly the many ports, it employed a significant proportion of the population and represented one of the top levels of economic activity. In the ancient city of Heliopolis in Syria, there was a law that stated that every maiden should prostitute herself to strangers at the temple of Astarte.

    In Armenia the noblest families dedicated their daughters to the service of the goddess Anaitis in her temple at Acilisena.In ancient India prostitutes have been referred as to devdasis. Originally, devadasi were celibate dancing girls used in temple ceremonies and they entertained members of the ruling class.

    But sometime around the 6th Century, the practice of "dedicating" girls to Hindu gods became prevalent in a practice that developed into ritualized prostitution. Devadasi literally means God's (Dev) female servant (Dasi), where according to the ancient Indian practice, young pre-pubertal girls are 'married off', 'given away' in matrimony to God or Local religious deity of the temple. The marriage usually occurs before the girl reaches puberty and requires the girl to become a prostitute for upper-caste community members. Such girls are known as jogini.

    They are forbidden to enter into a real marriage. The system of devadasi started only after the fall of Buddhism and records about them start appearing around 1000 A.D. [Bharatiya Sanskruti Kosh, IV, 448]. It is viewed that the Devadasi`s are the Buddhist nuns who were degraded to the level of prostitutes after their temples were taken over by Brahmins during the times of their resurgence after the fall of Buddhism. According to the 1934 Devadasi Security Act, this practice is banned in India.

    This ban was reinforced again in 1980s but the law is broken every day. Poverty and 'Untouchablity' contribute to the persistence of this terrible practice. Reference to dancing girls in temples is found in Kalidasa's "Meghadhoot". The popularity of devadasis seems to have reached its pinnacle around 10th and 11th century CE. The rise and fall in the status of devadasis can be seen to be running parallel to the rise and fall of Hindu temples. The devdasi system was mostly prevalent in southern India and it reached its height during the Chola Empire.

    Though government has taken adequate steps in order to combat with the problem of devdasi, even the devdasi prohibition act was not fully successful in solving the problem in India. Most important reason still being poverty, ignorance and hunger which are forcing them to this kind of exploitation. Now this was the old story or the beginning of prostitution apart from these there is also references of prostitution in Kama sutra written by Vatsyayana sometime between the second and fourth centuries A.C.E.

    India is home today to Asia's largest red-light district--Mumbai's infamous Kamathipura, which originated as a massive brothel for British occupiers and shifted to a local clientele following Indian independence. The Mughal Empire (1526 -1857) also witnessed prostitution the word tawaif and mujra became common during this era. During the Mughal era in the subcontinent (1526 to 1857) prostitution had a strong nexus with performing arts. Mughals patronized prostitution which raised the status of dancers and singers to higher levels of prostitution. King Jahangir's harem had 6,000 mistresses which denoted authority, wealth and power. Even during the British era prostitution flourished the famous kamathipura a red light area in Bombay was built during this era for the refreshment of British troops and which was later taken over by Indian sex workers.

    The prostitution continued from ancient and medieval india and has taken a more gigantic outlook in modern india, the devdasi system still continues ,according to a report of National Human Rights Commission of the Government of India, after initiation as devadasis, women migrate either to nearby towns or other far-off cities to practise prostitution.

    The practice of dedicating devadasis was declared illegal by the Government of Karnataka in 1982 and the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 1988. However the practice is still prevalent in around 10 districts of north Karnataka and 14 districts in Andhra Pradesh. Districts bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka, known as the "devadasi belt," have trafficking structures operating at various levels. The women here are in prostitution either because their husbands deserted them, or they are trafficked through coercion and deception. Many are devadasi dedicated into prostitution for the goddess Yellamma.

    Causes of prostitution:

    · Ill treatment by parents.
    · Bad company.
    · Family prostitutes.
    · Social customs.
    · inability to arrange marriage,
    · Lack of sex education, media.
    · Prior incest and rape.
    · Early marriage and desertion.
    · Lack of recreational facilities, ignorance, and acceptance of prostitution.
    · Economic causes include poverty and economic distress.
    · Psychological causes include desire for physical pleasure, greed, and dejection.

    Notorious red light districts of India include GB Road in Delhi, Sonagachi in Kolkata, Kamathipura in Mumbai, Budhwar Peth in Pune and Reshampura in Gwalior. There are around 2.8 million prostitutes in the country and their number is increasing, as informed by Lok Sabha. Most of the girls are brought from Nepal and Bangladesh. ''Young girls are trafficked from Nepal to brothels in Mumbai and Kolkata at an average age of twelve. They are trapped into the vicious cycle of prostitution, debt and slavery. By the time they are in their mid-twenties, they are at the dead end. In modern India different kinds of prostitution is prevailing apart from prostitutes in brothel there are:
    · Street prostitutes
    · Bar dancers
    · Call girls
    · Religious prostitutes
    · Escort girls
    · Road side brothel
    · Child prostitutes
    · Fricatrice prostitutes
    · Gimmick prostitutes
    · Beat prostitutes

    Every hour, four women and girls in India enter prostitution, three of them against their will.

    Prostitution is a problem in itself and child prostitution is making it more complex. Quoting a study on 'Girls/Women in prostitution in India', Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said that out of the total number of prostitutes in the country, 35.47 per cent entered the trade before the age of 18 years. Though in cases like Gaurav jain vs. Union of India [1]direction where given for the upliftment of prostitutes and establishment of the juvenile home for the children's of prostitutes.

    Laws related to prostitution in India:

    Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act -1956

    Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act-1956

    Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act-1956

    The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956 ("ITPA"), the main statute dealing with sex work in India, does not criminalise prostitution or prostitutes per se, but mostly punishes acts by third parties facilitating prostitution like brothel keeping, living off earnings and procuring, even where sex work is not coerced.
    Section3. Punishment for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel.

    (1) Any person who keeps or manages, or acts or assists in the keeping or management of, a brothel, shall be punishable on first conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than three years and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent to conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than five years and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

    (2) A any person who, -

    (a) Being the tenant, lessee, occupier or person in charge of any premises, uses, or knowingly allows any other person to use, such premises or any part thereof as a brothel, or

    (b) Being the owner, lessor or landlord of any premises or the agent of such owner, lessor or landlord, lets the same or any part thereof with the knowledge that the same or any part thereof is intended to be used as a brothel, or is willfully a party to the use of such premises or any part thereof as a brothel, shall be punishable on first conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which fine which may extend to two thousand rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine.

    (2-A) For the purposes of sub-section (2), it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that any person referred to in clause (a) or clause (b) of that subsection, is knowingly allowing the premises or any part thereof to be used as a brothel or, as the case may be, has knowledge that the premises or any part thereof are being used as a brothel, if, -

    (a) A report is published in a newspaper having circulation in the area in which such person resides to the effect that the premises or any part thereof have been found to be used for prostitution as a result of a search made under this Act; or

    (b) A copy of the list of all things found during the search referred to in clause (a) is given to such person.
    Section5. Procuring, inducing or taking person for the sake of prostitution.
    (1) Any person who-

    (a) Procures or attempts to procure a person whether with or without his/her consent, for the purpose of prostitution; or

    (b) Induces a person to go from any place, with the intent that he/she may for the purpose of prostitution become the inmate of, or frequent, a brothel; or

    (c) Takes or attempts to take a person or causes a person to be taken, from one place to another with a view to his/her carrying on, or being brought up to carry on prostitution; or
    (d) Causes or induces a person to carry on prostitution; shall be punishable on conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than seven years and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, and if any offence under this sub-section is committed against the will of any person, the punishment of imprisonment for a term of seven years shall extend to imprisonment for a term of fourteen years:

    Provided that if the person in respect of whom an offence committed under this sub-section, -
    (i) Is a child, the punishment provided under this sub-section shall extend to rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years but may extend to life; and
    (ii) Is a minor; the punishment provided under this sub-section shall extend to rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and not more than fourteen years.

    So it can be seen that both the sections namely section 3 and section 5 punishes only the acts of the 3rd party and same does the other sections in the Act and so new legislation shall be passed as to punish the client who are visiting the prostitutes.

    The prostitution leads to many health problems for the prostitutes like

    · Cervical cancer
    · Traumatic brain injury
    · HIV
    · STD
    · Psychological disorders

    In a country like India where most of the people indulge themselves in unprotected sex with prostitutes it is very difficult to eradicate the problem of aids. Historically, the AIDS epidemic in India was first identified amongst sex workers and their clients, before other sections of society became affected. The sex workers are themselves taking steps to combat with aids in some brothels in India for example sonagachi a brothel in Kolkata; where the sex workers are insisting their clients for use of condoms in order to avoid aids. But in all the other brothels in India social workers and NGO`S are trying to acquaint the sex workers about the ill effects of AIDS and are insisting them for using condoms

    Case Study
    Meena was married off at 12. Soon after she was taken to Delhi by her husband, where she found out that he was a pimp. In the last three years, she has serviced up to six clients a night. The major part of her earnings goes to pay rent on the little room; the rest goes to her husband. Maya, 10, was taken to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh by her aunt who was paid Rs 3 000. When she refused to have sex with a client, she was locked in a room for two days, scared with snakes and beaten unconscious. When she came around she was raped by the client. Four years on, Maya lives in the red-light area of Mumbai. Her two year old spends the night in a crèche run by a social service organization. When he was only a few Months old, she used to drug him and put him under her working cot.

    Steps that should be taken in order to fight with prostitution:

    # Formal education should be made available to those victims who are still within the school going age, while non-formal education should be made accessible to adults
    # The Central and State Governments in partnership with non-governmental organizations should provide gender sensitive market driven vocational training to all those rescued victims who are not interested in education
    # Rehabilitation and reintegration of rescued victims being a long-term Recruitment of adequate number of trained counsellors and social workers in institutions/homes run by the government independently or in collaboration with non-governmental organizations
    # Awareness generation and legal literacy on economic rights, particularly for women and adolescent girls should be taken up.
    # Adequate publicity, through print and electronic media including child lines and women help lines about the problem of those who have been forced into prostitution.
    # Culturally sanctioned practices like the system of devadasis, jogins, bhavins, etc. which provides a pretext for prostitution should be addressed suitably.

    Shall India legalize prostitution?

    Some people opine that prostitution shall be made legal in India and accept them as a part of society because the problem of prostitution is inevitable. The benefit of legalizing prostitution in India will be that atleast we will have a track record of Sexworkers as for example when dance bar in Bombay were closed most of the bar dancers migrated to Gujarat and Karnataka and other neighbouring state and started their business undercover. Legalising prostitution will see these women, who live life on the edge everywhere, gaining access to medical facilities, which can control the spread of AIDS. There is a very strong need to treat the sex industry as any other industry and empower it with legal safeguards. The practical implications of the profession being legal would bring nothing but benefits for sex workers and society as a whole. Keeping prostitution illegal also contributes to crime because many criminals view prostitutes and their customers as attractive targets for robbery, fraud, rape, or other criminal acts. The criminals realize that such people are unlikely to report the crimes to police, because the victims would have to admit they were involved in the illegal activity of prostitution when the attacks took place, now if it is legal then they will easily go and report this to police.

    Benefits of legalizing prostitution are:

    Legalization of prostitution and the sex industry will stop sex trafficking.
    Legalization of prostitution will control the sex industry.
    Legalization of prostitution will decrease clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.
    Legalization of prostitution will protect the women in prostitution as they will have rights.

    Women in systems of Prostitution want the sex industry legalized as they are the one who suffers the most as they don't have any rights.

    Legalization of prostitution will promote women's health as they can have easy access to medical facilities which they don't have when it is illegal.
    Recognizing prostitution as an economic activity, thus enabling women in India to obtain working permits as "sex workers".

    Thus either India shall legalize prostitution which is the most suitable step that can be taken or shall make such deterrent laws as to curve up the problem of prostitution. Laws should not be such as to just remove the prostitutes but also to change the mentality of people who are interested in paid sex by punishing them in such a manner that people of same mentality will dare to indulge themselves in similar activities.

    [1] AIR1997SC3021, 1997(2)ALD(Cri)199, 1997(2)Crimes40(SC), JT1997(6)SC305, 1997(4)SCALE657, (1997)8SCC114, [1997]Supp2SCR105

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