By Harish Iyer:
As the lights get dim and the night beckons, she paints her lips red with lipstick and gets ready for her night job. She stands in the balcony, the station, the streets, the by lanes, the hotels, the night clubs and every place else where she can find her customers. While she does so, there are other men and women who watch her with disgust. If the glares increase over the public meter of tolerance, the kind police man steps in. The police man, her regular customer in private, shoos her away as it is his duty to cure public morality from whore infestation.
Yet, from the group of these morally conscious men, emerges a man with an undying itch to get hitched. His penis, once expanded, doesn’t come back to its normal size until it attains moksha inside an orifice. She is at the corner of the road, hiding behind a handsome young pimp, ensuring that the eye of the policeman doesn’t catch a glimpse of her. However, the lucky dame is unable to escape the prying eyes of the horny man. He approaches her and fixes a rate. They go to the room. She speaks about what her services are. She says that she can allow ‘him’ an entry to vagina-land provided he covers the bloody joker. He is drunk and is interested in anything but bull-crap. He has no time for this; he likes it “raw”, so he beats her face, and shoves his so called mighty pride inside her modesty, against her wish, uncovered. Her modesty is torn in two. She screams, but her sounds echo back to her in the small room. She is a woman; she is all of 25, but looks like 40. She can’t be raped. It’s her profession, she is told, if she ever and whenever complains. Who can she complain to? The police? Which police? Wouldn’t she be told off? Rehabilitation? What rehabilitation? Would you appreciate her being rehabilitated close to your house as your neighbour? Cross your heart and tell me, wouldn’t you rather want her in some no-human-land, so that she doesn’t influence your life and your husband, and your children and all the other people you know? Truth hurts, doesn’t it? Glad it does, it means we still have some conscience in us, alive.
Lately, we all went berserk over the news of another lady who emerges in the dark like an owl. She goes to bigger places, she has richer customers. She had a past we all know of. She is a well known name. A then child artist, known for her cuteness and charm; she now chooses to sell her body as a service. She is more sophisticated. She speaks in English. She demands a price that is thousand times more than what the other woman did. She also has a stylish title that she addresses herself with- Escort. She had jumped into flesh trade when poverty and desperation were at their peak. Her needs are different from that of the other woman. Poverty means different things to these two people. While for one poverty means staying hungry, for the other poverty means to not have a chauffeur driven car. She again wore red lipstick; her manager fixed her a rate with an aged businessman who had truckloads of money. The money was tempting, even if he was not. She probably wouldn’t have to work so hard if she works with a few key clients. She chose to give him a ride of a lifetime. She ran to the hotel room and became the bedspread. He entered with absolute delight as she faked a thousand orgasms in one minute. In her mind, she has images of magical notes entering her purse at every orgasm. The night was too long. He treated her well and then asked her, “Do you wish to make more money”. She was dying to hear this; she said yes and bent down to please him. She suddenly found two men emerging from the oblivion. She was caught unaware. The two men touch and feel and enter her, in and out they go, leaving her with moans of pain and not ecstasy. Soon she has cum on her face and her lips are sticky, she feels dirty as ever. This wasn’t a part of the deal; she has always planned her life. She has lived by her choices, she doesn’t like unplanned surprises. Yet she tolerated it all, without a whimper. Three men in one room were overpowering her, agreed, but can she go out and complain? What if she goes on the streets in the dead of the night and gets caught by a group of other men, who are sadomasochists, more than these three men, could ever be. The images of Nirbhaya had not died in her mind, even after the death of Nirbhaya. And the police, how could she venture out and tell the police? Wouldn’t they ask her all her marketing questions – who, what, why, when, where, how, and how much? Would they leave her without knowing her “history”; would they leave her without passing a moral judgment?
Both these narratives are inspired from true stories. Well, this is the state of affairs behind many closed doors in India, and in various parts of the world. We shut our moral windows when we see a commercial sex worker and open our big mouths of judgment. We don’t really shut them out of our lives; we close ourselves inside our own cheap thoughts that belittle the cause of humanity. There is a prostitute in each one of us. All of us have faced a moment in our lives when we have been forced to do something as it was according to the demand of circumstances; each one of us have also had a moment in our life when we willingly made a choice which went against the norms. It is time that we celebrate the prostitute within us. It is weird to think that everyone in the world is brittle and so easily influenced by a certain set of people. We are quick to presume that a society tolerant to commercial sex workers and their right to live a life of dignity sans prejudice, will influence other people to turn into hustlers. If I was straight, I would have loved to spend my life as man and wife with a woman whose profession is commercial sex work if I really loved her. If it was my daughter and son who made unconventional career choices, I would have stood by them, unless of course they chose to join the Al Qaida. Even as a gay man, I would marry a prostitute without batting an eyelid. Not that I am any sort of a hero, but I dare to make a choice. A choice of loving a person, and when that choice is made, everything else seems immaterial. I have no right to judge a person; I have not had “intimacy” with just one anyways.
His /her profession would have been no criteria for me to judge. Its not that I see sex workers as victims, or a cause or want make a political statement about prostitution, but simply because it just doesn’t matter. They are neither to be seen as victims, nor a cause. They are common people with an uncommon profession.
It is time that we legalize prostitution and work at sensitizing the police about the rights of commercial sex workers. It is time to ensure that we don’t isolate and push them into some rehab in no-man’s land, but give them an equal status in our society. A legal status will give them access to a ration card and a license to work. They will not have to go underground and thus they will be able to keep their work-places open to regular verification checks. This means that one could check for any cases of child trafficking and HIV, regularly and on a mandatory basis. Their daughters would not have to live that life until they are forced into the profession, their sons would not have to become pimps. They can dare to dream beyond the confines of what their parent’s business demands. They can walk shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.
It is high time that we understand that some professions are different and uncommon; they are not unethical if the participants are adults with a free will. It is important that we understand that commercial sex workers — men women or transpersons are a part of the same society that we live in; they deserve a share of an equal sun.
Do you agree that we should work towards the beginning of the end of prejudice against commercial sex workers and commercial sex work in India?