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Prostitution And Slavery-Indian And Worldwide Context

The concept of slavery still exists but it is different for men and women. For men it is generally called as hurtful labour and for women it is called as prostitution. Prostitution is referred as the world's oldest profession in which people engage in the business or practice of giving sexual services in exchange for payment. In 2012, it was estimated that there were between 40 and 42 million prostitutes in the world[i].

As Abraham Lincoln said:
If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. Slavery is a despairing condition of having to work without any proper remuneration. It refers to a situation in which individuals are owned by others where their living is being controlled by another person. The Global Slavery Index, 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016, there were nearly 8 million people living in modern slavery in India[ii]. Among 167 countries, India ranked 53 with North Korea at the top of the list[iii].

Prostitution and slavery are concepts which prevails across countries over centuries. They are a dreadful state where more child trafficking is involved. In both the issues, children are major victims. People who are involved in these types of activities cannot quit because they are forced and have no other option to sustain.

Another set of victims are indirectly forced to continue due to poverty and unemployment. The main motto of the paper is to create a comparative understanding about the laws created for eliminating prostitution and slavery worldwide. Also, this paper emphasizes the legal aspects of prostitution and slavery prevailing in India. This paper gives insights on the positive and negative aspects of both the issues.


As we have discussed earlier prostitution is an act which includes sexual intercourse for money or other purposes. Generally, people who are involved in this business will not be related in any manner. They are neither couple or any known person to them. Person doing this activity as a business is called as prostitutes. Prostitutes may be male, female or even transgenders. But past activities have observed that majority of the prostitutes are women.

They are been called commonly with different names such as call girls, escort girls, road side brothel, etc. On few places they consider this activity as a profession but mostly in many other places they consider this activity as a sin and have laws to eliminate this activity. Countries in which they have accepted this as a profession views this act as just and fulfilling the natural urge of a human being. But the countries which have decided to avoid this profession views this activity as something which is immoral and proves that it is harmful even for the parties engaged in this activity.

Speaking of considering this activity as a sin, India has some laws to eliminate this activity. In ancient times of India, prostitutes are referred as devdasis in which 'dev' means god and 'dasis' means female servant. Devoting females to god was a widespread practice in India. These girls who are being devoted to god would have not even attained their puberty and are also restricted from marrying any person. These girls are only used for entertainment purpose.

They are called as jogini. The Government later tried to bring rules to avoid this activity but they were unsuccessful as poverty, ignorance and hunger were prevalent on those times. The causes of prostitution were mostly such as bad companion, bad parenting, lack of sex education, poverty, rape, psychological causes, acceptance, family prostitution and early incest. Prostitution may lead to many health issues for the prostitutes as well as the consumers such as HIV, cervical cancer, STD, traumatic brain injury and psychological disorders.

Indian Law On Prostitution:

In India prostitution is not criminalized but there are certain circumstances where punishments are given to the prostitutes or even the dealers and the customers. In the year 1956, Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act were enforced to stop women trafficking.

Now let's see some important Acts and its punishment for those acts:
  • In Section 3 of this Act, it is mentioned that, if any person is found to be involved in brothel-keeping then they will be given rigorous punishment from 1 year to 3 years and a fine that may extend up to two thousand rupees. If convicted for the same act once again then they will be given rigorous punishment from 2 years to 5 years and also fine, maximum of two thousand rupees.

    Person who is the tenant, lessee, occupier, person in charge, owner, lessor, landlord or the agent of the premises who willfully coordinate with this type of act or have knowledge that such act is taking place, have seen any reports published regarding the premises proceeding this kind of acts or any things of the person found by any means will be prosecuted under Section 3.

  • A person who procures or attempts to procure, induces, take or attempt to take the person, causes or induces a person to carry prostitution, with or without the consent of the person shall be punished with a rigorous punishment of three to seven years and with a fine of rupees two thousand. If the same person is convicted for the same act then they will get a rigorous punishment extended to fourteen years of imprisonment according to Section 5.

  • According to Section 4, any person who lives in the earning of prostitution will be punished with an imprisonment of two tears or fine of rupees two thousand or both. Where if the person lives with the earning of prostitution of a child or minor then he will be punished with minimum of seven years of imprisonment and a maximum of ten years of imprisonment.

  • Any person who engages in prostitution in any public places or places mentioned within the ambit of Section 7 will be punished with an imprisonment for a period which may extend to three months to the prostitutes as well as their consumers, if the same is committed to a child or minor then the punishment will be imprisonment of less than seven years which may extent to even life imprisonment to the consumer of the prostitution.

  • If any person is detained in the place where brothel or such activities involving sexual intercourse then they will be punished with an imprisonment for minimum of seven years to maximum of ten years which may at certain circumstances extend to a life imprisonment according to Section 6 of the Act.

  • According to Section 21, it is the duty of the government to provide the rescued women a rehabilitation and protection to the women who seeks for help.

In this Act, there are 25 sections in total. All these twenty-five sections focus on the protection of not only the public but also the child, minor and prostitutes. Our judicial system never failed to protect the rights of the prostitutes. In Sahyog Mahila Mandal And Anr vs State of Gujarat And Ors.,:
it was submitted that merely because these women were in the prostitution trade, it did not deprive them of their right to life and liberty. It was submitted that prostitution, per se, was not a criminal offence and it was only when a prostitute operated within the notified area, the offence was committed.

Prostitutes are never deprived of any fundamental rights. In the year 2006 an amendment was initiated in this Act which is not yet been implemented. It suggested an increase in the amount of fine, boosted punishments and it also contained authorities at the central and state level to combat against trafficking.

There is also a term called forced prostitution where a child or minor is compelled to do prostitution by any other person. Section 372 of the Indian Penal Code punishes such person who forces any child or minor to do prostitution and sells them, with an imprisonment for at least ten years. Section 373 of the Indian Penal Code punishes such person who buys those minor or child for the purpose of prostitution with an imprisonment of ten years.

There is also a National Commission for Women formed in 1990 through the implementation of National Commissions Act. This Commission also protects women from sexual harassment, women trafficking, sexual assault and many other problems. Moreover, if any child is harassed, the concerned child or any adult related to the child could immediately contact to the child line number 1098 and explain their grievances.

Also, there are many schemes implemented by the government to protect the child victims. This is the condition of prostitution in India. Not only the Government helps us to avoid prostitution but also there are many NGO' s like Neptune foundation, Snehalaya, GPCT, etc. are helping by spreading awareness about HIV/ AIDS and helps prostitutes by providing them jobs, food, basic needs and to improve their living. To get over this completely, prostitutes should be educated about HIV/AIDS, formal education should be provided to the victims, there should be more rehabilitation centers with trained counselors appointed by the government and every women should be well aware of the laws so that they could face any hazardous situation with courage.

Legality Of Prostitution In Other Places Of The World:

Let's have a look on other countries. In New Zealand, prostitution has been legalized since 2003. They are not considering this activity against their morality. In Australia, the legal status of prostitution differs from one state to another. In some states it is considered as a legal activity and in some states as an illegal one. Prostitution is absolutely legal in Austria. But there are few conditions to be followed by the prostitutes.

For example, prostitutes should be above the age of 19, they should undergo some medical examination and some other qualifications too. There is no wonder that we could visualize more forced prostitutions going on in Austria. In Bangladesh, everything is legal including pimping and owning a brothel but male prostitution is illegal. There are more child trafficking incidents happening in Bangladesh. In Belgium, prostitution is legalized to remove the stigma. This activity is managed by the states where the keycards are provided to the citizens who wishes to engage in this activity. Prostitution is legal in Brazil too.

In Canada, prostitution is legal but in 2004 buying sex became illegal. In Columbia, prostitution is legal but pimping is illegal. Prostitution is lawful in Denmark where the government receives some extra charges and helps the people with disabilities to be laid. Prostitution is legal in France but pimping, seeking for prostitution in public and brothel are outlawed. In Germany, prostitution was legalized in 1927.

It is managed by the State. As they consider this activity as a normal profession, they even provide health insurance and pension to the prostitutes. Greece also go along with the German and had legalized prostitution. In Indonesia there is no word called prostitution in their legislation but it has a statement that sex trade is legal. Indonesia is a place where forced prostitution and minor prostitution is more prevalent. In Netherlands, not only prostitution is legal but also other things are legal which are deemed to be prohibited in other parts of the world, for example, red-window sex. And there are lot of other places where prostitution is legal like in Finland, Singapore, Cuba, Chile, etc.

As we know there are two sides in a coin, there are places in world where prostitution is absolutely illegal. Countries like Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, South Korea, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, etc. made prostitution illegal. In Afghanistan if anyone is found engaged in prostitution then they will get imprisonment of five to fifteen years and if they are unmarried, they will receive eighty lashes.

In Albania, according to Article 115[iv] of their Criminal Code they will be punished with fine or imprisoned up to ten years. In Egypt if anyone is found pursuing prostitution they will be punished with imprisonment, from minimum of one year to maximum of three years and fine. According to Article 261[v] of North Korea, if any person is caught, indulging in prostitution for multiple times then they will be punished to labour for less than two years. Analyzing the punishments given by the countries, mostly the person committing the crime receives punishment of imprisonment ranging from one year to ten years and/or fine is imposed.

Should Prostitution Be Legalized Everywhere?

By legalizing prostitution, the State will become responsible for its management. They should issue proper license for the people, they should have a proper guideline who can indulge in this activity and who cannot, new laws should be framed for regulating this process, they should take care of the pay for the prostitutes, they should provide health insurance, medical care, and lot other process to ensure the safety of citizens of their country. By doing this we could stop sex trafficking, child abuse, forced prostitution, control the sex industry and a lot of other illegal activities, give proper protection to prostitutes and we could even control HIV/AIDS.

Though all these processes are good for the prostitutes and citizens it cannot be accepted by every country. Countries which have declared prostitution as an illegal activity considers prostitution as sin. They also have other reasons like, prostitution weakens the system of marriage, discipline in the State will be ruined by pursuing it and encouraging prostitution as a profession may set a bad example to the up- coming generations.

And if they legalize prostitution the State should be capable of managing it which might be difficult task for many States. It is not just about the State it is also about the people. The citizens of the State should have the mentality of such a change in their society. So legalizing prostitution in a State depends on the cultural background, citizen's mentality and effective organization of the State. Even if one of the factors is missing, legalizing prostitution would create a chaos in the State.


Slavery is a condition in which one person is owned by another for the purpose of labour. A slave was considered by law, as a property or a chattel and was deprived of most of the rights ordinarily held by free persons. Slavery is a form of dependent labour performed by a non-family member.

The concept of slavery is not new to the society. Some scholars claim it as a practice which is as old as the human civilization. It is a practice which has contaminated our society for centuries. According to Walk Free Foundation Report, there were 46 million people enslaved worldwide in 2016 and among them, 18 million people in India were living in the forms of modern slavery such as bonded labour, child labour etc.[vi] Thus, it is generally a form of bonded labour where one person is forced to work against his own will and volition.

Apart from Bonded and forced labour, there are many other types of slavery which can be seen as under:
  • Forced Labour: This is the most common method of slavery. It is a form of labour whereby an individual is forced to work for his employer primarily under a threat, duress or violence. It is a situation where the employee is forced to work against his will. Forced labour also includes within its ambit child labour. Child labour is very common in India, whereby children are forced to participate in industry which are dangerous and hazardous. Children can be enslaved in debt bondage, forced labour, prostitution, armies, domestic work and other forms of hazardous work. Today, forced child labour exists in nearly every industry around the globe. The victims of forced labour have no way out as they are stuck in their situation primarily due to their economic conditions.
  • Bonded Labour or Debt Labour: Bonded labour is also known as Debt Bondage. It describes the kind of slavery in which an individual is compelled to work in order to repay a debt. How it differs from other forms is that often the labourer and the employer initially enter into a mutual agreement. However, contract conditions may be illegal and/or vastly more beneficial to the employer than the labourer. These workers become slaves when they continue working, but cannot pay off their initial debt because of exploitative contract terms and, thus, cannot leave. A different form of bonded labour takes place in the industrial sector. They are contracted to work for long hours where the payment is very minimal. In India, this form of labour is most common in the factories on the outskirts of metropolitan cities.
  • Chattel Slavery: Just like any other commodity in the market, chattel slavery is a mechanism which allows ownership, selling and buying of human beings. The individual is forced to be a servant throughout his life time and often this burden is shifted on the next generation. Thus, any children born of the slave would also be a personal slave. This being an utmost disgrace to human dignity is condemned by the entire world and no society has deemed it as legal.
  • Forced Marriages and Sex Slavery: This kind of slavery is very common in some regions of the world. Women and often teenager girls are forced to marry older men who have an affluent status in the society to have a so-called guarantee of life. The main job of such enslaved persons is to fulfill each and every whim and fancy of their husbands. Primarily, they are used as sex slaves whereby there are abused and tortured, physically and sexually. The most common occurrences are in Middle East countries, China, North Korea and war-torn areas such as Syria.

Laws Relating To Slavery In India:

India has various laws and provisions against slavery. One of the main Act which was enacted to abolish slavery is the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. This Act provided various safeguards against bonded labour system.
  • The primary relief that was awarded to the bonded labours while the commencement of the Act was that the bonded labour stood discharged from any sort of obligation to provide bonded labour.[vii]
  • Under section 5, any custom/agreement whereby bonded labour existed was rendered void and inoperative.
  • Prohibition was casted on institution of any suit before any civil court with respect to recovery of bonded debt.
  • "Every decree or order for the recovery of bonded debt, passed before the commencement of this Act and not fully satisfied before such commencement, shall be deemed, on such commencement, to have been fully satisfied."[viii]
  • According to section 7, any property which is under mortgage with respect to any bonded debt shall stand freed on commencement of the Act.'
  • Under Section 8 of the act, a bonded labour who has been freed shall not be evicted from homestead.
  • The Act punishes any person who compels to render any bonded labour with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and also with a fine which may extend to 2000 rupees.[ix]
    Apart from this Act, there are various other provisions of different Acts which safeguards people from slavery.
    They are as under:
    • Section 374 of The Indian Penal Code recognizes the offence of unlawful compulsory labour and imposes a punishment of imprisonment for a term extendable to 1 year or with a fine or both.
    • According to section 26 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, any person is punished with imprisonment up-to 3 years and fine, for procurement of a child for hazardous employment
    • Section 3 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 states that no child shall be employed in prohibited occupations and processes.
    • Section 14 of the same Act punishes any person who did not comply with the provisions of section 3, with imprisonment up-to 2 years and fine up-to 20000 rupees.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has from time to time interpreted various constitutional provisions to safeguard the weaker strata of society against the menace of bonded labour. Some of them are enlisted.

Peoples' Union For Democratic Rights V. Union Of India[X]

To enquire into the conditions under which the workman worked in Asiad Projects, the Petitioner commissioned three social scientists. The Petitioner sent a letter addressed to Justice P. N. Bhagawati based on the investigations conducted by the social scientists. In pursuance to the same, the Hon'ble Supreme Court took notice of the letter on the judicial side and issued notice to Union of India and State of Delhi.

The court held that:
"The Union of India, the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority cannot escape their obligation to the workmen to ensure observance of the provisions of various labour law by its contractors and for non-compliance with the laws by the contractors, the workmen would clearly have a cause of actions against them as principal employers."[xi]

The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India dealt with the expression "other similar form of forced bonded labour" envisaged in Article 23 of The Constitution of India, 1950. A wide interpretation was given by the court for the expression to meet the objectives of Article 23. The court held that a person who has been forced to work as a bonded labour and person who is working as a labour at a rate lesser than the minimum wage shall be dealt equally.

Neerja Chaudhary V. State Of Madhya Pradesh

The Petitioner alleged that a number of labourers who were rescued from the Farridabad quarries have not been rehabilitated in spite of the fact that a long time has elapsed. It was contended by the petitioner that the State Government was obligated to overlook the rehabilitation of rescued labourers and rehabilitation of labourers is necessary so as to ensure Right to Life guaranteed to them under The Constitution of India, 1950.

The Hon'ble court held that as per the requirements of Article 21 and 23, the bonded labourers need to be identified, rescued and also rehabilitated. The court highlighted the importance of rehabilitation observing that in absence of any concrete measures for rehabilitation of rescued labourers, they would be driven into the state of poverty and substandard conditions again and it might lead them to the bonded labour system again.

Slavery Laws Worldwide

Slavery was prevalent in all societies across the globe. The practice of slavery was abolished at different times in different countries. As of today, slavery has been abolished de jure in all countries. However, certain practices are still allowed by some countries which are similar to slavery and thus it exists in a different form in many countries in the world.

There are many treaties, conventions and declarations which deals with slavery. Slavery has been abolished in the International Law. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948)[xiii] guarantees that no individual should be held in slavery or servitude. Further, it says that slavery in all forms must be eliminated. There are many protocols such as Protocol to the Abolition of Slavery been implemented in International Law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), also guarantees that no individual should face slavery. To abolish slavery, Abolitionist Movement has taken place throughout the world.

The laws regarding slavery has been quite similar in the UK and the US. The Slave Trade Act has been implemented in United Kingdom and United States to deal with slavery. The Slave Trade Act of 1788 was implemented in the United Kingdom which abolished slavery. Thereafter, Acts of 1811, 1824 and 1843 were enacted. Apart from them, Amelioration Act, 1798, Slavery Abolition Act, 1833 were also implemented by UK. Article 4 of European Convention on Human Rights prohibits all forms of slavery and the United Kingdom is a member in the European Convention. Another Act which abolishes slavery is the Human Rights Act of 1998 as it violates the basic principles of human rights.

In the United States, The Slave Trade Act of 1794 was implemented which abolished slave trade. This was strengthened by The Slave Trade Act of 1800. Further, Act of 1807 to prohibit importation of slaves was implemented. In India, Slavery was abolished by the Indian Slavery Act, 1843 whereby the slaves in custody of East India Company were freed. In 1860, the Indian Penal Code came into being and it effectively brought slavery to an end as it made a provision declaring that an enslavement of human beings a criminal offense.

Prostitution and slavery are the world's most jeopardizing form of human rights violation. Astonishingly, both the issues do not vary based on religion, ethnicity, community, race, caste, gender etc., unlike any other issue would. Despite being impartial in these aspects, they corrupt the world throughout. Some countries assented these concepts and the rest denied. Those countries which disapproves had different approaches to eliminate such an issue. Assenting or denying these issues depends on the country's culture, norms, people's mentality etc. The main concern here is not about the acceptance or denial of the concepts. All we need is to terminate the violation of Human Rights.

  2. Ambika Pandit, 8 million people live in 'modern slavery' in India, says report; govt junks claim [July 20, 2018; 05:43IST]
  3. ibid
  4. Article 115, Criminal Code of The Republic of Albania
  5. Article 261, The Criminal Law of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (2009)
  6. Faizan Haider, Bonded labourers, sex workers, forced beggars: India leads world in slavery [May 31, 2016; 8:25 am]
  7. Section 4 of The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
  8. Section 6(3) of The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
  9. Section 16 of The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
  10. 1983 1 SCC 525
  11. ibid
  12. AIR 1984 S.C. 1099
  13. Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Written By:
  1. S. Aparajitha - II Year, Bcom., Llb (Hons) - Sastra Deemed To Be University
  2. C.Amirdha Varshini - II Year, Bcom., Llb (Hons) - Sastra Deemed To Be University

    Awarded certificate of Excellence
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