SHOULD PROSTITUTION LEGAL IN INDIA?

SHOULD PROSTITUTION LEGAL IN INDIA?

INTRODUCTION

Prostitution is one of the oldest jobs in the world. Statistically speaking, 98% of the sex workers in prostitution are women and 99% of the buyers or clients are male. But that does not mean that men do not take part in this trade as sex workers. For the workers selling their body is a way to earn money however, it is not considered as a job in the society. The morals and mindsets of people hinder them to consider it as a job. These people also deserve attention from the government and legislation.

The question in light here is whether selling of body or sex work ethical or not? If steps are taken to legalize it would it create havoc on the morals of the society? The simply answer to both the question is no! Legalizing or decriminalizing sex work would not only be beneficial to the workers in that industry but also economically valuable for the country.

MEANING OF PROSTITUTION

Prostitution is a gendered and sexualized working system which involves exchange of sex services for money or other benefit. Prostitution involves both men and women in varying different forms such as call girl services, over the phone sex services, girlfriend services, bar girls, street workers and conventional sex worker. Some services are more organized than other.

Looking closely at the workers, it is not difficult to realize that they are working as sex workers to simply earn money to live instead of begging for money.

SHOULD THERE BE DECRIMINALISING OF PROSTITUTION?

As it currently stands, prostitution reflects the continuing cultural treatment of women as sex objects who exist to satisfy men’s pleasure. Inherently it gets more affected by brutality and exploitation in the larger society. Previously India had disguised prostitution as custom of Devdasi.

There are numerous documentary evidences to suggest that on average at least 60% of the workforce involved in sex work have been forced into it, be it because of family pressure or were sold into prostitution or were part of flesh trade. Additionally there is evidence to suggest that many of the workers are abused by their buyers and suffer from mental and physical trauma.

From a humane point of view, it is important to remember that no matter what choices they have made, they are also human and every human has a right to basic human needs and medical care. To earn a living we put in hours at our job both physically and intellectually, so how is it different for ex work.

If the work is seen from a rational point, the sex workers are like sellers and the commodity is their body. If there is market for the commodity, there would be sellers ready to provide it. And the government should take steps to protect such market.

Legislatively speaking, decriminalizing sex work would mean that there would be recognition of the workers as citizen of India and as such would get all the help and facilities available to the citizen. Additionally, it would mean that there would be government eye on the activities that goes on in the brothels and places as such meaning, there would be a record of the workers working and the chances of an unsuspecting person to be sold in the line of work would reduce. Also the children of prostitutes would be able to afford proper education. If proper time and effort is put into cleaning the prostitution industry instead of blacklisting it because of morals and reputation than prostitution can emerge as a very big benefactor of the economy of the country.

It is no secret that there is money in the industry but currently because of lack of governmental supervision, it gets swindled by the local dons and influential people who help cover the tracks of the people currently operating the racket. This in turn leaves the sex workers open to exploitation and extortion.

LAWS RELATING TO PROSTITUTION IN INDIA

As per the Indian Penal Code 1860, prostitution is not per say illegal in India, however there are some activities which are criminalized, like:

  1. Soliciting services of prostitution at public place
  2. Carrying out prostitution activities in hotels
  3. Being the owner of a brothel
  4. Pimping
  5. Indulge in prostitution by arranging a sex worker
  6. Arrangement of a sexual act with a customer

In India prostitution is regulated by Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956 famously referred as SITA. The Act basically states that sex workers will be allowed to commence their trade in private but they cannot carry their business in public.

Some of the criticism that SITA faces it that it has failed to differentiate between the victim and the perpetrator. Sex workers are penalized solely on the basis that sex is a major taboo in our society and society considers it indecent and immoral. While addressing the sex trafficking, the law has overshadowed the need for effective measures to protect the human rights of sex workers.

EFFECTS OF LEGALISING PROSTITUTION

Decriminalizing of prostitution would have both negative and positive effect.

Positive:

  1. The sex workers would get access to justice which means that victims will have a voice.
  2. Licensing of brothels: with governmental intervention, the workers would get documentation and id cards registered with the government.
  3. Registration would also mean end of middle men. The exploitation that they suffer at the hands of middle men would end.
  4. Setting up of organizations for the sex workers to work.
  5. Health clearance and checking the spread of HIV.
  6. Regularization of wages and better working conditions: all the depictions of sex workers are of people in dingy places or people engaging in sex in shabby dark corners or someone forcing themselves on a sex workers;; these all depictions are highly troubling and unsanitary. Legalization could prevent such things.
  7. Brothel income can be taxed.

Negative:

  1. The major dilemma would be that legalizing prostitution would be like indirectly giving green light to flesh trade and human trafficking. Information could be easily hidden from the government and raise the chances of exploitation.
  2. Legalizing prostitution would open a career path as facilitators and pimps.. this could negatively affect the youth of the country as they could forgo studies to pursue this career.
  3. The family life as we know it would come under major scrutiny and constitutional validity of prostitution could bring social disorganization.

CONCLUSION

In India, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took a decision that sex workers should be considered as informal workers and provided all the welfares benefits. National Human Rights Commission lists sex workers as ‘women at work’.  The National Human Right Commission’s recommendation came in its ‘advisory on rights of women’ issued recently as part of a series of advisories issued by the body in the wake of COVID-19. There are more than 80 countries in the world where prostitution has been made legal such as the US, UK, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands. Prostitution has been recognized valid or legalized in the entire South America, Canada and most of Europe. So, there are provisions in all these countries to protect the rights of sex workers.

It could be said that we are progressing towards decriminalizing prostitution if the judgment of Budhadev karmaskar v. State of West Bengal is to be considered. Though the progress is slow but it is there. Another benefit that legalization of prostitution may be that if prostitution gets recognized, then it would be easier for the law enforcement agencies to catch those who are involved in human trafficking. Legalizing prostitution would reduce the problems associated with illegal prostitution. It will be a progressive step which shall eliminate many social evils from the society like child prostitution, rape etc. Sex trade is a very evident reality of our country and by recognizing it as a legitimate profession with certain rules and safeguards all the involved parties can receive guaranteed benefits. A better and inclusive legal framework and implementation of all the safeguard methods will only cater to the betterment of the society.

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