TW: Mentions of human trafficking, sexual assault
Prostitution has been a part of society for ages. From the Vedic age to the Mughal era and into today’s modern world, it is a profession whose existence has been denied and rejected forever. It is technically illegal in India but is widely practiced. According to a 2017 survey, there are nearly 16 million female prostitutes in India are trafficked and the count has been rising since. Approximately 37% of these are minors below the age of 18 and, most of them are trafficked.
Many prostitutes in India are trafficked and forced into the sex trade.
Most of the prostitutes in India are women, girls, and transgender persons but nowadays young boys are also being trafficked. India’s sex trade industry is worth 8.2 billion dollars and is placed at 7th position in the Havocscope Research Institute’s list of major bases of prostitution. This highlights the size and extent of prostitution in India and that it cannot to ignored.
Prostitutes are a very vulnerable community and are prone to exploitation. They are not accepted by society and do not get alternative employment opportunities. Many times they are taken advantage of and abused by violent customers. The Constitution of India does not provide any protection rights to prostitutes apart from the basic citizen rights.
Prostitution itself is not completely illegal and a punishable offense but other related activities like operating brothels, pimping, and human trafficking are punishable in India under The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (1956). But this barely prevents human trafficking and other related crimes.
Legalizing prostitution seems to be the most effective way in curbing most of these problems. Government regulations and strict guidelines for prostitution will prevent minors from being dragged into the profession. Legalization will make the community feel socially accepted and more confident in reporting any violence against them. Regulation would also mean regular check-ups which reduce the spread of STDs. It will also reduce the number of rape and sexual assault cases in the country. Government can tax prostitution like any other product, service, or business which is expected to generate heavy revenue considering the size of the market.
Like any other policy, legalizing prostitution has its set of drawbacks. Legalizing will result in increased demand and illegal sex trafficking might come into the picture to meet rising demands. It is suspected that legalizing will not amplify women’s choices and demands as most of the women in the profession are poor who could not get any other job. Myths and prejudices against prostitutes have been deeply embedded into our society and legalizing it might not be able to eliminate the differences.
The condition of prostitutes is getting worse in the current situation of a pandemic. Their clientele has reduced to almost none and no one is willing to offer other jobs to them. Most people do not want to help them in these difficult moments, making it impossible for them to survive.
It is a ritual that the idol of Durga for Durga Puja is to be made from several sacred ingredients like soil from the banks of Ganga, cow urine, etc. One of them is the soil collected from the doorstep of a prostitute’s house known as Punya Mati, ironically, it is considered the purest soil of all.
They are insulted and excluded for the whole year and this one day they are looked upon with smiles and respect. There are many other ancient rituals and practices in our culture which give importance to prostitutes but society continues to see them with disgust in their eyes. Everyone deserves respect irrespective of their profession.