This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Bhavya Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why I Support The NCW Chief’s Call To Legalise Sex Trade In India

More from Bhavya Kumar

By Bhavya Kumar:

A very basic understanding of organized and unorganized sectors in India is more than enough to understand why most workers in India suffer from serious human rights violations, which isn’t talked about much, and which can’t be addressed by institutions like the courts and the police. Something which has always been out of the bounds of law cannot seek the redressal from the same. It should be now easier to imagine how many similar cases go unnoticed in the case of prostitution, which holds a strange status in India. While the sale of sex is not illegal (that too under multiple circumstances, which indirectly ask it to be discreet and deal very nominally with related matters like sexual interaction with minors), many factors integral to this sale are illegal.

Laws deal with the more superficial elements of the whole business of prostitution. There still is the need to venture inside the business directly to be able to regulate it. Pimping, money laundering, and trafficking are all banned, but it still doesn’t help anything in a country as large as India, where circumvention doesn’t take much, and passes without attention. Even if the motive is to discourage, it shouldn’t be just banned. It should be subjected to scrutiny, and run through various processes. For instance, pimping in the Netherlands requires a license to do so. All the formalities that it demands, and the consequence of lack of compliance, is enough to check this business.

Hazel Thompson, a British photojournalist, covers Kamathipura in her work called “Taken”. Kamathipura was one of the “comfort zones” set up by the colonial governments for the military. One of the largest red light areas in Asia, it is mostly handled by larger underground criminal circles. Trafficking is rampant, and exploring the media produced on Kamathipura and G.B. Road, anti-trafficking laws look like a tremendous failure. Brothels are illegal, as per the ITPA, 1956, and successive amendments. How will this act function when the institution and only its management are subject to prosecution, and not the rings in which these brothels operate? Banning isn’t the solution; constant intervention, interruption and strict persecution is. A prostitute can operate the business in certain circumstances, for instance, privacy of an establishment, away from “public areas”, and so on. But, this is not addressing the problem directly. The attack shouldn’t be on the individual perceived to be committed in such an act; looking at the ground reality, it is never an individual effort. Anti-trafficking laws will work when what induces this trafficking is made available to the scrutiny of law.

It may be considered as an immoral act by the society, but prostitution is a dynamic industry in India; and just because it is not regulated, it is easier to commit related crimes within the circle. The idea to criminalize prostitution, as proposed by Hazel Thompson herself, in my opinion, will make the matters worse. With over two million sex workers already engaged, I imagine this to be a hard task to undertake, with graver repercussions. Suppression of sale of sex will mean nastier forms of the same reemerging.

The idea of legalization of prostitution has been toyed around with for quite some time. Among the very recent attempts at getting the legal status allotted to sale of sex, the National Commission for Women is to propose this legalization again. Supreme Court, in 2009, raised this very question of legalization of prostitution. The idea is to be able to monitor this industry, reduce exploitation of the workers engaged and intervene for the welfare of the workers. This will mean that the redressal sought by workers, monitoring money generated by this business, international sex tourism, and other securities will be easier to gain. Involvement of children can be handled very well by a comprehensive system of registration and licenses, as observed in other nations. Brothels can be subjected to inspections and raids, and hence their multiple roles in organized trafficking could be brought under check.

I am reminded of the movie “Talaash” (2012). I usually find myself at a loss when it comes to analyzing films, but, as an ordinary audience, I quickly absorbed certain things that the film was about. Prostitutes and their treatment, their rights as workers, and the many issues that cannot be addressed, such as misbehavior on the part of the client, mismanagement by their employers et cetera, will be something about which they can do something. Legalizing prostitution will be rendering them power. I don’t claim that this imagined legal construction will be flawless, and there still shall be circumventions. But, legalizing it, and rendering the state ability to venture into this industry, will make it much more organized and transparent to those who want to do something about it.

However, not everyone supports this idea. In my view, I can broadly outline those who profit by the illegal bounties that the business yields and those who bear a conventional outlook, where obscenity is best kept under veil or stark opacity. These outlines often blend into one another. The concept of paid sex is not regarded honorable, and hence, it is not a work. But, then, there’s a need to define what exactly is “work”. I understand work as commercial equation, and there are all sorts of work. But the social consequences that follow this commercial equation, where abstract and material matters are sold for a certain amount, introduce the idea of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable by the society and the state. The ground reality is very complex. Unacceptability of prostitution doesn’t need to translate into illegality, especially when it needs to be addressed. What needs to be realized is prostitution itself isn’t a problem; even if it is a problem, then one must understand that it shall stay put for a long time to come. For us, at the moment, the best that can be done is to make this industry open and engage directly with the many complications and issues that it houses.

What is currently being done by the opposition of legalized prostitution is ignoring the matter, despite the fact the prostitution and the trafficking that it induces leaves this society with a larger problem unaddressable, and allowed to grow. To eliminate the problems with prostitution, the policy that should be practiced need to confront and dominate the industry, instead of ignoring and maintaining distance.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aakash Guglani

    It is one sided argument. Legalisation would lead to increase in exploitation of women. As people will kidnap them and isssue them licenses so it is by their consent as they have license. No action would be reported. As people hold CBI in power this will be other way of using it as money laundering and rampant corruption.

    1. Fem

      And of course women and children are not kidnapped and sold in flesh trade now.

      My friend – By rule of thumb, a licence is not issues just like that. There are certain rules and regulations one is supposed to adhere to get it and maintain it. And there’s a law and justice system to maintain that. Plus it would give the sex workers legal identity and help govt keep a record of them, their health and things like that. It would regulate the trade which can not stop anyway and is subject to much exploitation.

  2. kaushik kumar

    I completely agree with the author’s views in this article. The case that she has presented here for legalizing commercial sex ‘industry’ is fair and cogent enough for any rational and civilized chap to understand its subtle nuances. Well and Good it might appear to be, but then, we cannot ignore the lessons and actual experiences from countries that have already followed on the legal path that this article has espoused. A careful analysis clearly throws light on the fact that legalisation has done no ‘wonders’ on the ground level that we often conceive of at the theoretical level and that in ‘many’ cases the consequences have even been counterproductive.

  3. Jenny Lee

    You don’t realize that if the police cannot stop trafficking even now, then they will become even more lazy to stop it if the industry becomes legal. Also no woman in this country except mentally retarded people would like to sell sex legally as a business. In my opinion it will become more difficult to track trafficked girls if this sex industry becomes legal because kidnapped girls can be legally kept in legal houses by just hidden in basements/etc and any raids etc wont help. Also it will only help the industry grow many times.
    The rescued girls are usually kept in sarkari places from where they die or disappear.. yeh industry sab ka mili bhagat hai.
    Its better to shoot-as-you-see the people involved in these industry immediately so that they become example for future offenders. Killing them immideately like mosquitoes should be the only law nothing else. Also every citizen in this country should get licence to carry guns and protect themselves from any kind of offenders even other offenders who have guns with training in guns protection. That way lazy police doesnt need to solve cases with their fat stomachs which they have grown by not doing their job and being lazy bribe-takers.
    Thank You

More from Bhavya Kumar

Similar Posts

By Taylor Guerrero

By Chiranshu Sihag

By ananya rajawat

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below