HomeBlogOpinionWhy Prostitution should be Legalized and Regulated in India?

Why Prostitution should be Legalized and Regulated in India?


Prostitution, the oldest profession on earth is not something which the Indian society today looks up to.  In the realms of history we have had prostitutes who enjoyed celebrity hood. The law, indignantly, is bent on curbing the profession but has been unsuccessful so far. The truth that the elimination of prostitution is not possible was even recognized by the Supreme Court of India in month of December, 2009. The court had also pointed out that nowhere else in the world prostitution is dealt with by punitive measures. The laws governing prostitution in our country are proving to be detrimental to the interest of women instead of relieving them from the clutches of traffickers, middlemen, local police, brothel owners etc.

The only way to guarantee a better life to prostitutes is legalization and regularization of the industry. Though there is denial of the fact that such progressive step is not a cake walk for the government considering the traditional mindset and moral benchmarks of Indian society. But keeping in mind the higher interest, and to avoid the undesirable consequences, government has to initiate such a regulation with a stance that prostitution is not morally heinous and it cannot be abolished

Tracing the History

In the ancient time there was a practice of having Nagarvadhu meaning bride of the city/town (An example being the very famous nagarvadhu ‘Amrapali’ from the city of Vaishali ). Also, there were Devdasis (the ‘slave of the deity’); they can be better understood as temple prostitutes.

During 16th and the 17th centuries Goa (the then Portuguese colony in India) had a considerable number of young Japanese women captured as sex slaves by Portuguese traders.

During 18th and early 19th Centuries (During the rule of East India Company) it was a common practice among British and Indian soldiers to visit ‘Nautch’ (Nach) Dancers.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries thousands of white women from continental Europe were trafficked to India for purposes of prostitution to serve the British and the local Indian men (According to a paper published in the ‘Indian Economic and Social History Review’).

Present legal status of Prostitution in India

The Law governing prostitution in India is Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act which is a 1986 amendment to the primary law passed in 1950 {known as the Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act}. The law does not criminalize prostitution per se but only organized form of prostitution is against the law. If a woman uses attributes of her body voluntarily and individually she goes unpunished. But the law prohibits/criminalize-

  • Seduction/solicitation of customer
  • Prostitution anywhere near a public place
  • Publication of phone number of call girls
  • Organized form of prostitution i.e. a brothel, pimps, Prostitution rings etc.
  • A sex worker being below 18 years of age
  • Procurement and trafficking of women

We can conclude that if a prostitute works for self and uses her own premises for entertaining clients she is conducting herself lawfully! But then why do we often see video footage on T.V. where a sex worker and her client are being herded into the police jeep? Here comes the shady picture of police who might not book the sex worker and her client under the above mentioned act, they do it under provisions like public indecency, public nuisance etc. of the Indian Penal Code.
Male prostitution is not recognized in the law though it is quite prevalent.

Reasons for legalisation and regulation of Prostitution-

  • HIV/AIDS among prostitutes has emerged as a huge cause of concern. According to a WHO report of 2001, it is estimated that 50% of prostitutes in Mumbai (the city being hub to the largest number of prostitutes in the country) are HIV positive! They contract the virus from their infected customers and in all probability communicate it to other healthy customers. One can easily imagine the havoc unregulated prostitution can cause! If legalized and regulated, awareness programs teaching the prostitutes the importance of protected sex and frequent health checkups can be organized.
  • Legalizing prostitution shall be a primary channel to vent out the sexual energies of men who otherwise content themselves by means of rape and other sexual violations of women in their vicinity.
  • Regulated prostitution shall put a check upon the brutal trafficking of girls where they are trafficked without their consent and are forced to serve the clients.  They are compelled to survive in poor living conditions and even basic and essential rights such as right to education, right to freedom, right to form association, right against exploitation etc. are denied to them. Legalization shall mean access to these rights.
  • In India a prostitute is shunned, excommunicated and looked down upon with contempt by the society. She never really gets a chance to join the mainstream and live with dignity. Human rights are supposed to bring every human being dignity, but women who trade their bodies are far from enjoying a dignified life. If the government legalizes the profession, gradually the outlook of society, who considers prostitution a despicable occupation, may change. Also, the women in such trade will be given a place in the closely knit Indian society.
  • The middlemen or ‘Dalaals’ who procure and sell girls for purposes of prostitution are a menace. They sell women like chattels in lieu of commission. Legalization and regulation by government shall mean abolition of the undesirable figure of middlemen.
  • Prostitutes are highly dependent on police for uninterrupted continuance of their activities. Policemen extort money from brothels and prostitutes to let them work in peace. Any prostitute who refuses the bribe is caught ‘red handed’ and put behind bars for charges like public indecency, public nuisance etc under IPC. Due to such acts of police these women have to face monetary exploitation also. If prostitution is legalized and regulated such exploitation shall come to end.
  • Due to no effective legislation to curb child trafficking. If prostitution is legalized, brothels indulging in child prostitution could be penalized.This shall put a check a child trafficking and  prostitution.
  • Children of prostitutes cannot expect of a better life. Due to poor life conditions they are bound to enter in the same trade. Regulation of prostitution shall promise a better life for such children.
  • Present Labour laws do not extend to prostitutes. Though rehabilitation facilities can be made available by the government. If the profession gains a legal status the Labour laws could be extended to prostitutes who are working with brothels.

What does Regulation imply?

  • Proper registration of prostitutes.
  • Brothels shall require license to run the business.
  • Brothels could hire prostitutes and prostitutes would be able to associate themselves with brothel of their choice.
  • Prostitutes may organize trade unions.
  • They would have to undergo health checkups mandatorily on regular basis.
  • The money they make would be taxable.
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