LEGALISATION OF PROSTITUION IN INDIA

Kunal Jigyasi

INTRODUCTION

Everyone in India acts very open to modern ideas but the harsh reality is when an idea is proposed like legalization of prostitution everyone thinks it as immoral, unnecessary, and something to not discuss on dinner table even without looking at the facts, and advantages that it brings along with it.

Many of the people think that this will have a bad impact on the society but fails to recognize the pros that it will have because according to a report in 2009, prostitution in India is a Rs. 40,000 crore annual business and thirty percent of the sex workers are children whose exploiters earn a whopping Rs 11,000 crore. According to a survey, there are approximately 10 million sex workers in India out of which 100,000 are in Mumbai alone, Asia’s largest sex industry. There are about 300,000 to 500,000 children in sex trade in India, among which Bangalore along with five major cities together account for 80% of child prostitutes in the country. These figures are startling and point towards the importance of a genuine intervention of the State to curb this necessary evil.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 governs prostitution in India. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, no doubt is an improvisation over the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 but still a lot is to be achieved because the immoral traffic act defines prostitution as ‘sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes or for consideration in money or in any other kind, and the expression “prostitute” shall be construed accordingly’ which is conceptually wrong as there is consent of a person who is involved in such type of acts and this definition makes prostitution illegal.

This research paper aims at exploring aspects of legalization of commercial sex work in India and whether it is a possibility in light of the various social and legal constraints that are existent in the current scenario in our country. It also gives the need of legalization of prostitution and gives the arguments against the legalization. It also briefs the countries who have legalized prostitution and how have they come up with its implementation and how India should be inspired and try to come with some of these ideas with keeping in mind the Indian ground reality. Also, it helps in understanding that discussing things like prostitution, rapes etc. should not be something that we have discomfort of.

NEED OF LEGALIZATION

* Reduction in rapes -:

After every rape case in India, people get heated and agree to every protests and movements towards more stricter laws and more severe punishments for rape. But what we fail to understand is the practical approach towards this as we do not understand a mentality of a person who rapes and why does he do so. According to a research done by a team lead by Paul Bisschop of SEO Amsterdam Economics, a public research institute in The Netherlands stated that major cities which have legalized sex work has a decline of 30-40 percentage of rapes and sexual abuses in that area.

This is something which has been tried out before and has a success story, and hence no one can say that this is new and no one knows the result of it.

* Reduction in human trafficking -:

According to the report of CNN there are around 1.2 million children believed to be involved in prostitution in India. Child prostitution is a significant global problem but in India it has not received adequate attention primarily because of a general lack of sensitivity to this issue. Hence there is a serious need of authorities to be involved in this issue. Legalization will have a check on the minors involved in such business.

* Rights given to the workers -:

Prostitution is not recognized as an occupation in India and this gives no occupational rights to the workers. There are also not under any acts which gives them the write to earn proper wages. Moreover, no respect is given to the workers and no one considers to talk about it in the parliament because of the sensitivity of the issue. But if there is legalization more rights will be given, and the occupation of the workers will be recognized, and will be a lot of help in having legal documents.

Also, women who are forced to become sex workers will have rights and come more openly towards this.

* Economic advantage -:

Since mentioned earlier that prostitution is a Rs. 40,000 crore business annually and hence if charged with taxes, it may generate a lot of revenue receipts for the government. And no ruling party would deny some extra funds. Although, many would argue that it is immoral money but if it is legalized it would come in daily context and no one would know the difference.

* Reduction in diseases -:

Credible sources bring to light the presence of at least half a million children in the industry are suffering from diseases like HIV and AIDS. These children even lack understanding of their state. In 70 percentage of the cases, state officials say, girls refuse to say anything that may incriminate their pimps, who they consider as their parents. This all could be avoided with the help of legalization.

* Removal of pimps and middlemen -:

According to a report most of the profit or money earned by the sex workers goes into the pocket of pimps and middlemen. But after the legalization there will be removal of pimps and this would benefit the workers immensely, as this would help them in getting their share equally and will have more economic stability. Moreover, poor economic condition is one of the main reasons for a woman to get into this sort of occupation and if they are exploited of money also, then there is no reason for them to indulge in such sort of acts.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST LEGALIZATION

A country like India where LGBTQ rights were given in 2019, is very far to accept prostitution as an occupation. This is because most of the people in India is not comfortable about talking sex and yet India remains top at being the most unsafe place for a woman in the world due to its sexual violence and rape cases. Moreover, India is also popular for its massive scams and corruption, so legalizing prostitution on ground level is a very difficult task for officials. Even after the legalization its implementation is far more difficult as ground officers who will implement it will indulge in activities like bribery, favoring the bureaucrat, etc.

Also, on moral grounds it is ‘wrong’ according to the Indian culture. The human body is a gift, meant to be kept pure. Selling it is just immoral. Ethically, prostitution ought to be symbolic of a women-objectifying society, with an inherent derogatory standard of living. Feminist views against prostitution argue deprived lives of most women who enter this trade. Solid research by analysts in Germany predicted almost no change in the lack of psychological support and social stigma even after legalizing prostitution. Again, what if legalization makes it lawful and official for men to have an authority on women’s bodies? What if this granted ‘right’ corrupts some minds to such an extent so as to include every girl? There are many unanswered questions which have no answers even if there are answers there is no guarantee that the answers are reliable and correct with respect to the ground reality in India.

INTERNATIONAL OVERVIEW

Many countries in the world have legalized prostitution with keeping many domestic laws in mind. For example, Sweden is a country where selling sex is not a crime but buying sex is. Let us look at some countries and how have they legalized prostitution and how India can take those countries as role models for the implementation.

* Netherlands -:

The current law regarding prostitution in Netherlands legalizes brothels as long as they do not disrupt the public life and they will operate like any other commercial establishment. The law aims to legalize the organization of voluntary prostitution and penalize involuntary prostitution characterized by coercion, exploitation and fraud for which imprisonment is guaranteed. Powers are vested with local authorities to control and regulate the conditions under which prostitution is permitted. Sex work is organized in a variety of ways in Netherlands, for e.g. window prostitution, street sex work both of which work independently. The tolerant nature of Netherlands portrays that sex workers have good working conditions which are similar to other industries – but reality is far from it. Even though public policy has taken a pragmatic approach towards sex work, they are victims of stigma, marginalization and bereft of human rights protection.

India can provide a similar environment, when there is legalization, for the sex workers as this will help them to think their work as profession rather than something that everyone thinks is not an occupation.

* Sweden -:

The new legislation in Sweden criminalizes buying of sexual services. Its main aim is to reduce the numbers of sex workers and encourages them to retrain. It targets men as clients, that the sex workers and penalizes them with imprisonment. This approach has led to collaboration of social services and law enforcement officials in sensitive treatment of the sex workers. The aim is to contain socially unacceptable behaviour and to encourage the sex workers back into the mainstream of the society.

This is one of the most important things that may be needed after legalizing prostitution, as all may not accept this and the workers may feel discouraged doing the work.

* New Zealand -:

The current law regarding prostitution in New Zealand legalizes the practice of prostitution. New Zealand now has the most liberal laws of prostitution than any other countries in the world. Before 2003, there was a huge practice of prostitution in this country behind the curtains of massage centers. This change after 2003 was brought about for the prostitutes to get police protection in case of emergencies. Now there are brothels and sex services throughout New Zealand, evidentially in larger towns and cities. They legalized prostitution for several reasons. Safe sex was one of the reasons. Safe sex means to use condoms while engaging in such sexual activities which is to say that all the sex workers are regulated to use protection while engaging in such activities (to avoid any transmitted diseases).

This is one of the important aspects while legalizing prostitution as this will be one of the reasons for legalizing as it will help in reducing diseases which are transmitted through sexual acts.

CONCLUSION

If we accept it or not prostitution is there and it is going to stay, so if we cannot stop it and then why not control it. This may be the most ignored topic to be discussed or debated over on the news channels but it is the need of the hour as it will solve many of the problems that India is facing. Also, it is important for people to understand that making stricter laws and more severe punishment for rapes and sexual abuses will not have a serious impact on its decline, as a person who rapes another person do not keep in the mind the punishment he will get after act. Hence, we need to form a more practical approach towards this issue. Moreover, it is important to stop child trafficking, minor involvement etc. in this business and that can only be done is the government takes control of this occupation.

Through the course of research, it can be observed that legalizing prostitution would benefit the people, prostitutes as well as the state. Though prostitution has been taking place in our country since many years it is still looked down in our society. It would benefit the prostitutes in many ways like, better health facilities, impose rights and duties on them, the working conditions would be improved etc., it would benefit the state by means of earning income through which the state would have better control over such activities.