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The Reality Of Prostitution In India

The evidence of the existence of sex work dates back to the Vedic period. However, the institution of marriage had led to the seeking of sex for pleasure outside the ties of marriage which eventually developed into an informal industry. Prostitution is one of the topics that are not freely spoken about in the society even today.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding this topic as it is highly frowned upon. This leads to high amounts of exploitation and violence towards sex workers. The legal system of India has tried to make a few provisions to help sex workers deal with the problems that they face but are they really helpful or have most of the problems that they face not really been addressed while making provisions to take attention away from the inefficiency of law in general in guaranteeing them their rights.

This paper deals with the problems that they face while also analysing the effect of this on them while also exploring a few solutions that can possibly help them in their situation. 1

It is evident that the Indian courts have already rendered several decisions in favour of sex workers. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal that sex workers have a right to dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution, which protects the right to life and a means of subsistence.

According to the Calcutta High Court, there must be strong proof that a sex worker who was exploited for commercial sex was a "co- conspirator" in the offence before she may be tried as an accused under the ITPA. Three women who had been imprisoned for working in prostitution were given their freedom immediately by the Bombay High Court in September 2020.

The court ruled that prostitution was not a crime and that an adult woman had the right to choose her career. Now, in 2022, a three-judge led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao said Supreme Court panel issued a landmark decision that recognised the profession of sex work and said that those who engage in it are entitled to respect and equal protection under the law. The supreme court clarified that "voluntary" sex labour was not against the law.

When a sex worker reports an offence, the police must take it seriously and follow the law. When a brothel is raided, the sex workers involved should not be arrested. No child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother simply because she is in the sex trade. The police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them. 2

The Rigveda, the oldest literary work in India, contains the earliest allusion to prostitution. We learn about Jara and Jatini, a married spouse's male and female illegal lovers. The regular payment for favours obtained set this illicit lover apart from the professional prostitute or her customer. Though it is hard to distinguish whether sexual favours were performed for lust or to obtain gifts and favours, some elements of prostitution can be observed.

Although extramarital love may have been unpaid and voluntary, there is a chance that the male partner may have viewed it as a form of service for which he was required to provide some sort of payment. However, because it was limited to a single individual, it was only a temporary arrangement and not recognised as a career. Such completely momentary partnerships with no enduring commitment or duty were described by the later Pali term muhtittia (lasting for an instant) or its Sanskrit equivalent muhturtika. Depending on the partner's mindset, such relationships could have been either voluntary or professional.

Gradually, women emerged who were frequently pressured to turn to prostitution as a career because they could not find suitable husbands, were without brothers or fathers, were prematurely widowed, had unhappy marriages, or were subject to other social pressures. This was especially true if these women had been violated, kidnapped, or forcibly enjoyed and were thus denied an honourable status in society, or had been given away as gifts at religious or secular events.

The same kind of respect and economic security was not granted to prostitutes then. Women who usually were widowed, old or couldn't find a suitable husband became prostitutes to support themselves. As the institution of marriage grew, women were considered the property of their husbands. The terms "sadizarani" or "samranya" (common) emerged, which are synonyms for "prostitute," indicating that she is not a single man's private property.

The dissolution of tribal societies and the emergence of joined families barred women's mobility and general freedom. Women were now considered the possession of the man they married. Other men wouldn't trespass on another man's private property so started seeking pleasure outside which gave rise to the institution of prostitution. 3 India has long practised prostitution as a vocation. In reality, sex workers are mentioned as "apsaras" in a number of Hindu mythological references.

The devdasi system, which was prominent among Hindus throughout the pre-colonial era, required them to give their female child away as a symbol of their devotion to God. Devdasi, which literally translates as "devoted to the deity," refers to people who were married to the god and were therefore exempt from having to wed anybody else.

They were highly talented artists who had achieved sexual liberation, particularly in classical dance and music. However, exploitation and suppression were brought about by colonialism. The basics of sexual emancipation, femininity, art, and culture were transformed by the British into devotion, bhakti, and other religious practises. Additionally, as feudalism and colonialism declined, these women began to experience abuse at the hands of temple priests. Consequently, they become susceptible to both poverty and sexual exploitation. This is among the earliest types of prostitution still practised in India.

Sex workers face many problems in the world even today. They are not treated like a human being and their basic human rights are often violated. Prostitution is seen as an immoral job and is looked down upon. The irony lies in the fact that most of the people who avail of these services are the ones who mostly violate the basic rights of sex rights. This can be seen as sex workers face a lot of violence and humiliation while they work.

There are many cases where sex workers have gone to police stations to lodge complaints but were not given justice and they were not given any importance. Some of the other problems they face are lack of health care facilities, violence, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, stigmatization and discrimination.

However sex workers aren't the only ones who face problems due to their profession, children and family of these sex workers are often treated badly. Children of sex workers face many problems as they are often denied their right to education due to their parent's jobs or are treated inhumanly in schools which often leads to these kids dropping out. Indian law has also failed to protect this vulnerable group from abuse and exploitation.

The main law dealing with people in sex work is the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) of 1986 which seeks to prevent the trafficking of persons in India and prohibits most outward manifestations of sex work, including brothel operating and public solicitation. It also allows for the eviction of sex workers from their residences in the name of "public interest."

This law has however not addressed nor understood the majority of the other problems that are faced by sex workers every day and in turn, hurt the sex workers even more as this law is highly misused. Most parts of this act are ambiguous which leads to the misuse of said act. Police officers often falsely accuse and lodge complaints against sex workers and bribes or free sex is demanded.

International anti-trafficking organisations and Indian law enforcement officials have used "rescue and restore" missions as a strategy. These "rescue" programmes for trafficked and underage sex workers are sometimes successful, but always at the expense of the community of sex workers. The provisions governing raids and rescue make no distinction between adults and children.

In the ITPA, there are offences such as detaining a person "with or without his consent, "premises where prostitution is practised or where a person is taken "either with or without his consent "in order to engage in prostitution An adult's consent or lack thereof is the crucial factor in crimes such as kidnapping or illegal confinement that determines whether a criminal act is to be labelled. However this strategy as been seen to be not so effective not working in its aim to help victims of sex trafficking. Some of these 'rescued' girls feel that they have been 'arrested' as they were kept confined.

Police often take advantage of the high amount of stigma present around the topic of prostitution. Stigmatization is viewed as a major barrier to women in sex work exercising their rights. Women in sex work have been denied safety, proper healthcare, education, and, most importantly, the right to practise the business of making money from sex as a result of this discrimination.

Sex workers often face violence and their safety is often at risk. however the perpetrators of violence often have mindsets where they think it is okay to inflict harm upon sex workers as they feel that the job of these people is morally wrong thus they think it justifies violence that they experience. However this group is extremely vulnerable as even the protectors of justice often turn a blind eye towards the violence that they face.

Not only do they face the above problems but they are also stuck in this profession as it is hard for them to earn money a different, more 'dignified' way. They are often denied their right to education, keeping them and the generation to come, stuck in this cycle of humiliation, violence and exploitation. Education institutions discriminate against them and their children and deny them their basic rights.

They also are often denied healthcare facilities due to their job. They are also not given sex education which leads to a lot of misinformation and them not being educated on how to have safe sex. This can lead to transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. They are also looked down upon when they visit healthcare centres. It is well documented that sex workers are often forced to take HIV tests against their wishes, this shows us a larger problem related to the stigma around sex workers, they are seen as transmitters of STD's. Most of the problems that sex workers face are directly or indirectly related to the stigma around prostitution.

The legalisation of prostitution will shield young people from sexual exploitation. Worldwide, there are over ten million children who are forced into prostitution. Although child prostitution is a sad reality in practically all nations, it is particularly bad in Asia and South America. Strict rules in the sector can guarantee that minors are not allowed to use the system.

Regulated health check-ups of the sex workers will ensure the curbing of the sexual transmitted diseases specially, AIDS which is just so common among the sex workers. Adequate birth controls will ensure unwanted pregnancies and curbing of other health hazards. Regular health check-ups and strict guidelines will ensure the cleaner and hygienic working conditions. A compulsory provision of condoms will also, be beneficial for the sex workers and the customers both.

Prostitution's legalisation will improve and modernise the system. When middlemen and pimps are eliminated from the system, sex workers will be able to earn more money, and the criminal and exploitative elements will be much diminished. As people turn to a more convenient and legal option to satiate their sexual cravings, it will lessen sexual violence, rapes, and other forms of sexual assault.

One region that had a 149% surge in rape rates after the closure of brothels is Queensland. Get forced prostitution out of society In India, the prostitution industry is estimated to be worth 8.4 billion dollars. The government will benefit from the procedure' legalisation and taxation because of it. Workers' rights will be safeguarded. The rights of a citizen and a worker should be accorded to sex workers even though they are not covered by standard labour regulations.

The fact that most of the problems that sex workers face on a day to day basis due to the stigma around prostitution shows us that the mentality of the society is what causes them harm. They are not given the basic level of respect while also denying them their most basic rights of safety, health, education etc.

Something that can be done to deal with this problem is formalisation of this job. This can lead to more job security, health insurance and the other benefits that come with joining formal sector of employment. This can also help with slowly removing the stigma around se work and sex workers.

This will result in solving most of the problems that they face on a day to day basis. People will stop inflicting harm on them as they now will realise that there would be consequences, healthcare would be more readily available to them, there would be safer work conditions, it will ensure that there is less financial exploitation ect. They would get all the benefits that service workers in the formal sector receive which is what they deserve as they do provide an important service to the society.

Most for the problems that they face also shows the inefficiency of not just the Indian Legal system but also of enforcers of law and protectors of the people (police). 4

In a society where prostitution has a long history and is still a thriving industry, turning a blind eye to it and acting as if the system and its defects don't exist would be foolish. Making sex work legal and decriminalising it with appropriate rules and regulations will provide improved working conditions, health security, and protection for sex workers. 5

Additionally, it will be a positive move for society as a whole, eradicating numerous societal ills like child prostitution, rape, etc. Sex trade is a very real phenomenon in our nation, and by accepting it as a genuine profession with a set of guidelines and protections, all parties involved can be assured of receiving advantages. The development of a fairer, more inclusive legal system and the application of all available safeguards can only benefit society.


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