Prostitution has a long ancient history in India. Back in the centuries, girls denoted as Devadasi were often used in ceremonies to entertain the men of the ruling class. In the rituals, they were married to Gods or the local religious deities and then given away to the presiding community to use them as prostitutes. These girls were prohibited from entering into any form of real marriage.
A lot of women indulge in this profession for several heartbreaking reasons, including prevalent social customs, marriage accompanied with desertion, greed and need, psychological desires, and to top of them all, rape and abandonment by family and society. It has remained even when times and eras have changed perhaps because human sexual demands neither decline nor are completely satisfied.
In India, prostitution is not illegal per se, but acts involving solicitation of such services, pandering, keeping brothels and pimping are criminal. According to the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women & Girls Act, 1956, sex workers are allowed to carry on their business in private. It does not criminalize prostitution as such but bans third-party facilitation.
According to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986, sex workers can be arrested for seducing their clients. Prostitutes who make their arrangements using phones are not allowed to make their phone numbers public. Anyone indulging in any such activity with a person below 18 years of age shall be imprisoned for seven years or more. Prostitution in hotels is also banned.
Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits trafficking in every form, including commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. According to the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, 1986, prostitution means sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes. Sex trafficking has gained awareness and recognition as a human rights violation. Sex trafficking involves the sale of humans for sex. UN Protocol 2000 prevents, suppresses and punishes trafficking of persons, especially women and children.
Prostitution is perhaps the oldest profession all over the world, but it is likely the most hated one. Hated in a sense that people who visit them actually enjoy it, but in society, they pretend otherwise. It is often perceived that prostitutes do what they do out of their own free will and choice and they are often looked down upon, leaving a question to their face, “Why do they not do something else?” But we have to understand that a majority of them are in this profession because of their compulsion. Most of them are compelled and forced to be in this profession rather than it being their choice.
In the case of Budhadev Karmaska vs the State of West Bengal, the apex court, while directing the central and state governments to frame social security and rehabilitation schemes for prostitutes, held that prostitutes also deserved their right to dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution since they are, most importantly, human beings and their issues need to be addressed. It stated that sex workers were human beings too, and no one had a right to assault or murder them. The judgment also highlighted the plight of sex workers and empathized that these women were compelled to indulge in prostitution, not for pleasure but because of abject poverty.
It was stated in Raj Bahadur vs Legal Remembrancer that:
“Traffic in human beings means selling and buying men and women like goods and includes immoral traffic in women and children for immoral or other purposes.”
In the case of Sushil vs the State of UP, even if a prostitute lodges a report of rape and her evidence inspires confidence, there is no rule of law that states that the statement of the prostitutes cannot be believed. They have the fundamental right and are at her liberty to permit a person for sexual intercourse.
Problems With Law Enforcement:
As a society, this is the time for us to think. No doubt that the court says that they are also humans and they have their human rights, but the court cannot reach every woman who is in this profession. Some questions remain unanswered, and we need to find answers if we really want to protect humans and human rights.
Forget about those who are in this profession; is it appropriate and moral to indulge in sexual activity by giving money? Is it appropriate to buy a girl or woman’s time for just to fulfill your desire and satisfaction? Is it possible to protect human rights or think about human rights for the person who offers this service? Is it possible for children of prostitutes to think about any other profession and live a life of their choice? Is it possible to respect the consent of prostitutes?
Can’t the government make rules to provide some other employment opportunities to those who are working in this profession?