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Prostitution In India: Can It Ever Be A Matter Of Choice?

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By Ananya Mukherjee:

Prostitution in a layman’s language is exchange of sexual favours for money. The word prostitution makes me upset because I do not think any individual especially a woman would willingly indulge in the sex trade unless there is a grave reason behind it. In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development reported the presence of 2.8 million sex workers in India, with 35.47 percent of them entering the trade as child prostitutes before the age of 18 years.

In India, although prostitution, when practiced privately, is legal, keeping brothels, pimping and publicly any act of seduction is illegal. Many innocent victims are forced into prostitution by their husbands, relatives, many get kidnapped and forced, others enter due to lack of resources, or they fall prey to tricks.

The known red-light districts in India are Sonagachi in Kolkata, Kamathipura in Mumbai, G. B. Road in New Delhi, Reshampura in Gwalior and Budhwar Peth in Pune. In recent years red-light areas across various parts of India have become a common place for international sex tourism as well.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act or PITA is a 1986 amendment of legislation passed in 1956 as a result of the signing by India of the United Nations’ declaration in 1950 in New York on the suppression of trafficking. The act, then called the All India Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act (SITA), was amended to the current law. The laws intend in criminalizing various aspects of sex work. The main points of the PITA are as follows:

Sex Workers: A prostitute who seduces or solicits shall be prosecuted. Similarly, call girls can not publish phone numbers to the public. (Imprisonment up to 6 months with fine, point 8)

Sex worker also punished for prostitution near any public place or notified area. (Imprisonment of up to 3 months with fine, point 7)

Clients: A client is guilty of consorting with prostitutes and can be charged if he engages in sex acts with a sex worker within 200 yards of a public place or “notified area”. (Imprisonment of up to 3 months, point 7) The client may also be punished if the sex worker is below 18 years of age. (From 7 to 10 years of imprisonment, whether with a child or a minor, point 7)

Pimps and Babus: Babus or pimps or live-in lovers who live off a prostitute’s earnings are guilty of a crime. Any adult male living with a prostitute is assumed to be guilty unless he can prove otherwise. (Imprisonment of up to 2 years with fine, point 4)

Brothel: Landlords and brothel-keepers can be prosecuted, maintaining a brothel is illegal. (From 1 to 3 years imprisonment with fine for first offence, point 3) Detaining someone at a brothel for the purpose of sexual exploitation can lead to prosecution. (Imprisonment of more than 7 years, point 6)

Procuring and trafficking: A person procures or attempts to procure anybody is liable to be punished. Also a person who moves a person from one place to another, (human trafficking), can be prosecuted similarly. (From 3 to 7 years imprisonment with fine, point 5)

Rescued Women: The government is legally obligated to provide rescue and rehabilitation in a “protective home” for any sex worker requesting assistance. (Point 21)

It is being largely observed that the brothel system is slowly dying due to issues like reconstructing that area, victims to AIDS, overcrowding in brothel area leading to discomfort of visitors, increased police patrolling and many other added reasons. Still, trafficking remains a big business and often, girls of tender ages are trafficked from Bangladesh and Nepal.

Recalling an article that was published in Reader’s Digest some years back, it showcased the plight of a Nepalese girl. She was an attendant at a telephone booth. This so called gentleman who used to come to the booth on a regular basis, once offered her a job for which she needed to move to Mumbai and that would have earned her family Rs. 5000 every month. She quickly accepted the offer and left for Mumbai with that gentleman. On reaching Mumbai she was taken to a brothel and raped till she agreed to enter into prostitution. Years later, she was rescued from the brothel as her client was a clerk with some media house and after having heard her story he asked for help. She later came to know that she had been sold for Rs. 50000 by the man who got her to Mumbai and that never even a penny had reached her home.

This is the story of just one prostitute. Imagine how many different stories we will come across if we get to know each one’s history? It is understandable that poverty is a part of our country. But is it justified that poverty becomes a reason to sell oneself? In a country where we have fundamental rights and where we claim to voice anything we feel the need for, why should helpless people be the victims of such dehumanizing acts? Isn’t it strange that we can count and say where all the red-light areas are located even though they are illegal and not supposed to exist? Think about it!

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  1. Victim1

    Of course women can choose to be prostitutes.

    Many ENJOY it.

  2. Rajkamalvats

    prachin kal se ye silsila chala aa raha hai sundri sur ka sangam hota aa raha hai insan ke pass dono raste hai jaha vo jana chahta hai ja sakta hai

  3. Aashna Iyer

     Firstly, I’m sorry, but women enter into prostitution because they want to as well. Obviously, nobody wants to live in cramped conditions, running the risk of being arrested every second; but women have been known to take to prostitution because they need the money. The Brothel ‘system’ is not programmed to exploit women. Basically, they are let into a brothel on the understanding that for a preliminary period of time, they are not to leave and their earnings come through the authority in charge after which they are allowed to take career decisions as they please. I’d talked to a woman who worked with the CSEWs and she had told us tons of stories about women who’re taking up this profession as an alternative income. Married, happy, even mothers, but they indulge in this profession.
    This is not to say that prostitution as it goes on in our country is okay. I’m all for legalizing it, actually, because only then can we protest against the plight of women forced into commercial sex and lobby for their dignity and lives back. Only then will illegal trafficking be targetable. As of now, the ITPA only talks about child trafficking and public annoyances more than anything else. Commercial sex work is not legal, neither is it illegal. This ambiguity is what is the main problem. Raids under the ITPA are only carried out if some bigshot somewhere needs it to be.
    That is the sad thing and what dooms these women more. The feeling that they’re unwanted, inhuman, even.

    1. Dheeraj

      I totally agree with you.. but let me tell you that many prostitutes were helped by NGO’s and many other agencies…
      but more than 90% of them return to this profession because of the following reasons:-
      :- They enjoy as well.
      :- Its very easy to earn a huge amount of money in a very short period of tine through prostitution.
      Well if u don’t beleive thisthen its your problem……
      one of my friend have experienced this… once he was travelling in american airlines (he was going for a tour ) and one of the airhostesses came and said “sir i always take 150$ but u can have it in 100$….”
      Now wat will u say to this …???? I don’t think that she was so poor that she cant afford 3 meals per day…

    2. roshan

      do u think those agencies will take care like…A MOTHER HOW SHE TAKE CARE OF HER CHILD…??????????????????????????///

    3. roshan

      remember ur an indian..and also u should be proud to be an indian..for money only ur doing this right…ill take care of u….FOOD,SHELTER,AND ESPECIALLY A PROPEROUS LIFE…..girls are the mother for the country..please dont do this……even im a girl..ill take care of u…and now u wont feel this…..later,ull feel…think me as ur sister..and please……………………………stop this……………////hope ulll////

  4. Anonna Dutt

    @36ed9b22711e1ec18ab22b1d26e4a515:disqus I totally agree with you, prostitution should be legalized so as to reduce the suffering of the women and I also personally know sex workers who entered the profession by choice and not force or desperation.As for the ITPA, the first question I would like to ask is what kind of trafficking is moral? Apart from that instead of curbing the problems of the sex workers it is increasing them manifolds. Under the ITPA, the police arrest probable customers but let the sex workers be – isn’t it a way of kicking their stomachs, most of them need the money to feed themselves and their families (yes families – they too have happy family lives!). Also, it states that a sex worker’s child is not allowed to use their mothers income after they are 18. What gives us the right to do exactly the same? (I am 19 and I am still studying on the money that my parents provide and most of us do the same, then how are the children of the sex workers different?)- This is a kind of discrimination added on to some that they already face at schools and colleges.

  5. raja(critics)

    i believe, prostitution and sex working can never eradicated. the system gets more influential and wide spread now.

    the thing we can or should ensure is preventing abuse and child prostitution.
    every child deserves a calm playful life. we should ensure that

    1. roshan

      dont think like that….ill totally eradicate………………………………………………………just try instead of commenting…

  6. anand yadav

    india want youth power

  7. Hore Avishek026

    Nobody choose prostitution by their own choice, they dont do their proffession happily.. even the daughter of the prostitute wnt to build their carrier like other pple do, bt they dont have other option,because they r draged into this business jst 2 earn their livehood, even they have the right to move wid the normal pple in society, bt we pple dont allow them,even if we met a prostitute   we will never talk gud wid her bt if she give a chance we ll try 2 get satifaction 4m her wid payin money, bt after getting satisfaction we will start discriminating… how do they stop treating prostitute as a sex toys, they are also ahuman being & attached wid emotions..

  8. delven

    It has become a routine affair with media to take one isolated case of some girl who was forced into the trade and wanted to be out of it after suffering. Then the media projects it as if this must be the case of every woman in the trade. Such campaign lacks sense and shows things out of proportion. Isolated cases are exceptional. Also persons in this trade must be considerate and concerned about the girls who are unwilling. These girls must be safely left out otherwise they pose a threat to the trade. What is the point in forcing unwilling girls? Instead girls who are willing (there are many compared to isolated case of an unwilling girl), can be recruited for the trade. The trade is for pleasure. It should not tread the way of crime.

  9. Anjan Singh

    this is such a thing which cannot be eradicated completely,if there would be demand,supply would be done in any case,only we can do is that we can minimise the force trafficking…..until nd unless there would be poverty and hunt for money,this cannot be eradicated nor be controlled

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