Prostitution In India: Understanding The Conditions Of Prostitutes


By Pratik Goyal:

A prostitute or a tawaif or a devadasi as different times have called them in India — are the facilitators of what some people say the “oldest profession of the world”, Prostitution. It is $100 billion global industry whose legal status varies from country to country, an industry which is unarguably ubiquitous in all the countries with their own variations, an industry whose history can be traced to 4000 years back to ancient Babylon. But surely one must not be naïve enough to think that this so called “oldest profession” is driven by need of physical pleasure only, but is rather driven by the economic and psychological distresses which contribute majorly to the entry of prostitutes in this profession.

In India prostitution is legal but the other related activities such as soliciting, pimping and brothels are illegal. There are more than 20 million prostitutes in India if a Human Rights Watch report is to be believed — and as many as 35% of them enter at an age less than 18. Prostitution was once upon a time a theme of Indian literature and arts for centuries. In Indian mythology there are many references of high-class prostitution in the form of celestial demigods acting as prostitutes. They are referred to as Menaka, Rambha, Urvashi, and Thilothamma. They are described as perfect embodiments and unsurpassed beauty and feminine charms. Even during the medieval period and rule of mughals they were treated very royally — Sanskrit plays have been written on this, even now, they form a central theme for many movies. Some of these movies have been able to provide an insight to the plight of the prostitutes in our country. But the true face still lies hidden. Ever since the downfall of Mughal Empire the conditions have deteriorated to deplorable levels. Exploring through the causes of prostitution, the first and the foremost factor is Poverty.

Poverty is one of the main causes which brings helpless woman to the doors of prostitution. A woman distressed economically, often ill treated by parents or seduced by boyfriend who later turns out to be a pimp or procurer, and lastly uneducated or with a very low education level seldom finds any other avenues to feed herself other than prostitution. There are other social factors which are degrade the status of a woman. One such factor is the view of women being a commodity – which is pervasive in popular manifestations of culture in India. The harsh reality is, that women who have had sexual experiences are considered to be ‘used goods‘ or ‘characterless’ and are unlikely to ever marry. She becomes an impoverished cultural outcast.

Religious prostitutes, child prostitutes, rapes, inability to arrange marriage are some of the other reasons which pushes the woman on the downslide from which there is no coming back.

India is one of the biggest market for prostitution in Asia with Mumbai alone accommodating 200,000 prostitutes. Trafficking, sex tourism and ‘clandestine’ nature of the industry is further imposing problems and spread of HIV/AIDS is on the rise at an alarming rate with woman being more prone to infection. Because of such nature and lack of regulatory body the real magnitude of severity of the actual situation cannot be comprehended.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act or PITA, a 1986 amendment of legislation passed in 1956 provides for the rehabilitation for the sex workers, who come forward and demand it, but what good does it serve if the families of these rescued women do not accept them back. These schemes need to have an empowering impact for these women. These women should be provided vocational training and education and their products should be marketed so that they do not face the same trouble all over again.

Lately there have been questions rising with the growing importance of the mandate of legalizing prostitution in India. While that is certainly not a great solution for the given problems which require more of a paradigm shift in the mindset of people, but given the clandestine nature and no regulation of industry, it would certainly be a step towards damage control. Legalizing would pave way for licenses and registration, whereby workers would have their own identity, access to public facilities, and other services. A serious check on the spread of HIV/AIDS will help in controlling the other related activities which have associated with the prostitution etc.

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a very true picture and a rather humbled one... the paradigm shift is what is always required... How soon we achieve is the quetions that's always clinging onto a peg carrying the hopes we wish come true..

Neha Bhandarkar

The positive factors that will be the aftermath of legalization will need to be reviewed time and again, since the stigmatization of prostitution is to a much greater level.


my comment is not for again in this topic iam just search the what is this i am work with this topic of college project. i think so at prosticution is not beeter in society term,ruls regultion,for asociety.


In india It is not 100% true the prostitute doing the business because of poor they make this prostitution is easy way of making money that is all I


Very good article,i would like to say that there are few girls who indulge them in this market not because of money ,they do this to get pleasure in their life.They are from rich families,but the desire to step in this gutter ruin their soul.However we should show sympathy to those who are forcefully dragged into this gutter.Thier rights should be given to them,eqully treated in the society.


Dear sir,

The laws against prostitution in India are having enough power but it

has become very difficult to the police to implement them. the main

reason may be the capacity of Indian mafia and general apathy of

Indian public.

The menace of prostitution is not detrimental one for the economy

and society is the belief of of our police and politicians. So they

turn their eyes in a different direction when it comes to the matter

But that is the rot of all social evils .

Kindly go through

1) A trafficker buys a girl from Nepal -- 100000 is lost from the


2) She will be brought into the country and raped repeatedly and

that will never be reported ----- Many rapists are created they may

rape even another free woman . Govt has to spend money and

resources for investigation conviction etc.

3)The earning capacity of the free woman may be crippled --- a loss

to the economy.

4) The running rates in brothels are around rs.500 per client.

5) A girl gets minimum 10 clients a day.

So the minimum earnings will be around Rs 5000 a day multiply it

by at least 300 days an year Rs 1500000 per girl

6) If a madam /brothel Keeper is having 10 girls the sum becomes

an amount of 1.5 crores. This is an enormous amount under Indian


7) All the money earned so will be black money either it has to be

stashed or used for illegal activities.

If the money is stashed economy looses so much of investments.

so reduced production in industry/agriculture for the tune of 5

crores per year . This only from a brothel having 10 girls. multiply

the amount by 1.2 million girls then you will see the enormity of


The loss will Rs 600 thousand crore per year.

8)This loss is only when the amount has been stashed in the form of

gold or cash .If the money earned so is used to fund smuggling the

loss. becomes much more.

9) Under this scenario the petty police of the nation will not be

having any other avenue other than abetting the criminals.

Either they have to abet the criminals or they have to die mostly

the ones who go for raids continuously are transferred.

10)These sex workers become infected with STDS soon and

transmit it to the working population. So there will be a loss to the

economy in terms of work in terms of education treatment. etc

When we consider estimated 3 million sex workers The loss

become an amount that can not be estimated.

The brothel keeper who earns more than the police officer will

become all powerful in this scenario. He can threaten to kill the honest

police or his near and dear ones. There is no protection for them so

even the honest will become helpless.

Even if they arrest the brothel keepers they come out on bail the

next day and continue the business with new girls .

so the law against prostitution becomes unimplementable and ends

up in harassing the the prostitute the real victim.

Prosecuting the client is not a solution as it will make the operations

more clandestine and more brutal for the victims.

Then is there not any way to break the networks .

There are some ways which can be implemented with existing

resources and man power or low cost solutions.

1) Establish a web site for the general public to report a bout child

prostitution /trafficking etc anonymously. By doing so pimps might

have to take extra care in choosing the clients.

2)Make it possible to award the police teams for rescuing minor

girls from the dens the award amount should be more than a lakh

per girl. This will make them to come out of the greed of bribes.The

girls rescued from the dens can be trained in a vocation and part of

their earnings can be utilized for repaying the award money.

3)Make brothel keeping and pimping a non bailable offense. Let

those brothel keepers languish in jails indefinitely till the legal

process is completed.

4) Make it possible to attach and confiscate all the property of the

brothel keepers pimps and financiers of flesh trade.

5) Let the police who raids may have share of 40 percent of the

riches and rest to the govt. for rehabilitation purposes.

By doing so police will be risking their life's and raiding the dens.

3)The onus of proving innocence should remain with the

beneficiaries of flesh trade. the law should be guilty till proved

innocent. this increases the chances of conviction.

4)The women engaged in prostitution should be treated as

victims not as culprits.

5)Once the case is proved The buildings that run brothels can be

auctioned and the booty can be shared by the local police

administration and politicians. This prevents the proprietors lending

their premises for illegal activities.

6) The punishment should be civier it should not be less than 10


7) In case of traffickers and Madams /brothel runners They can be

made compulsory blood donors. And forced organ donors if they

are healthy.

Otherwise they can be used as human guineas for toxicology

experiments/ scientific experiments. No need of showing mercy on

them. They were ruthless for the young girls and spoiled the lives of

many. You may think the clause is draconian but barbaric acts can

be stopped only by draconian laws.

8) Avenue of awarding the informers for successful raids should be

established this helps in intelligence gathering.

9)The brothel keepers rotate girls lest they will devolp affinity

towards clients and elope with them withe help of police. In the

same way there should a rotating anti trafficking and raiding cell

power to seal premises conduct raids without warrants arrest the

culprits etc.

If the govt is keen on eradicating child prostitution it has to act

with an iron fist. And consider that even the police who are

entrusted to enforce law are human and they too have limitations.

And the laws should be made implementable without harm to the life

and properties of the people who implement them . Otherwise there

will be very good laws that can never be implemented.


In India, prostitution is legal, but it is not allowed on a public place. But I think that hotels should be allowed for this purpose.


I think that may be sometimes these young girls enter the profession on their own... But why do we overlook the reasons behind this... Many a times a girl is compelled to enter the profession... It may be legal or illegal but it is surely harmful enough to cause death of the girl by contracting many STD's n even it is harmful for the society as if a prostitute becomes a victim of disease like AIDS then she can spread it to many clients.. Who in their real life may have or usually have wives

Got it?? This business however it may be needs to be stopped or legalized with many restrictions which would protect those girls as well as the society... I agree totally that nobody should be forced in the profession. It should be their choice after all.


Under Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, prostitution within an area of 200 metres from a public place (i.e. hotels, temples, school, park, hospitals and hostels etc.) is punishable. But after 200 metres of a public place, it is legal and there is no need of licenses. But most people do not know this. In hotels people stay with their wives or girl friends or with their other family members and friends and they feel inconvenience, when police raid there for prostitution. This was why I wrote that hotels should be allowed for this purpose. I agree that nobody should be forced in the profession and under this act if anybody forces any body for prostitution he is punished according to law. But I think that hotels should not be raided for the purpose of prostitution so that we can stay there with comfort with our wife, girl friend or our other family members as and when we are on tour.


I want to publish book on modern problems of sex workers, you are requested to contribute articles related to your issues and how you have achieved the basics from govt organisations. I f you have any organised body to edit the book he/ she would be welcomed and name would be printed in contributors list.


India Publisher's & Distributors

New Delhi

Namrata Gulati

Thanks Pratik for the article. It is rather sad that sex workers are excluded from the Census too.


that is really sad.


I am really sad that the indian government cannot do anything to stop this. It has been amazing and sad to read and learn about all this kind if bad stuff. I hope that someday that this all will end.


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