“The prostitute is not, as feminists claim, the victim of men rather their conqueror, an outlaw who controls the sexual channel between nature and culture” said by Camilie Paglia, an American academic and social critic.A prostitute is a person who trades her body for sexual purposes in return of monetary payment. It originated in ancient Greece and is considered the world’s oldest profession. A major portion of the population was engaged in this occupation as it represented one of the top levels of economic activity. Instead of brothels, there were temple prostitutes in ancient Greek society. People in ancient India believed, hiring a prostitute was a form of worship. Prostitution has taken a more gigantic outlook in modern India. In Asia, India has maximum red-light areas. Kamathipura in Mumbai is the largest red light area in India which originated as a massive brothel for British occupiers and shifted to a local clientele following Indian Independence. In India, according to The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1986, prostitution (PITA) is not illegal per se. However, it is criminalized as all the integral activities related to it such as owning a brothel, pimping, carrying out such activities at a hotel, kerb crawling, soliciting at a public place are illegal. However, the society considers sex workers distant from regular workers because it is considered morally sinful to trade body for money.
In terms of healthcare, they are viewed as the means of propagation of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, HIV etc. Unprotected coitus is the main cause of AIDS in being a prevalent disease amongst them. The first AIDS epidemic was diagnosed in a sex worker and her client. Legalising prostitution will help women gain access to health facilities which can control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases worldwide. Not just STDs, they face other psychological disorders due to the inevitable societal pressure.
From denying equality to disregarding the opinion of a sex worker, all the fundamental rights are taken away from sex workers. Due to their inability to voice out their issues, they often become victims of sexually transmitted diseases, physical and mental violence and discrimination. The sex workers are not sanctioned ration card making it difficult to avail government’s schemes and other benefits. Unlike others, they don’t enjoy their right to vote thus leading to discrimination on enjoying ones fundamental rights. Criminalising prostitution takes away the ‘right to life’ of sex workers; they can’t complain of any harassment faced by them in their workplace as their work is considered ‘illegal’ in India. The labour laws in India do not recognize sex work as a profession. They are disregarded legally by the society. By legalising prostitution, there would be an improvement in their situation in terms of equality, freedom and voicing out opinions.
In recent times, many steps have been taken to curb the problems of prostitutes. Calcutta Sex Workers’ Manifesto emphasizes on the plight of sex workers. This manifesto is published by the Durbar Mahila Samanvaya Committee originally formed by women of Sonagachi, red light area of Kolkata. The main agenda of the manifesto was that the sex workers deserved a normal life just like any other worker while remaining in their occupation. The manifesto demands the society to see a sex worker as a “complete person with a range of material and emotional need” and not only in terms of their sexual activities (DMSC, 1997).
Legalising prostitution would not just eradicate the problems associated with it but will be a positive attempt to eliminate few of them. Moreover, it would pave the way every sex worker’s registration and a proper license which would gain them access to all health facilities, ration card and recognition as a regular worker.
Gangoli, G. (1998). Prostitution, Legalisation and Decriminalisation: Recent Debates. Economic and Political Weekly, 33, 504-505.
Sinha, K.N. (2013). The Problem Of Prostitution An Indian Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l269-Prostitution-in-India.html
Durbar Mahila Samanvaya Committee. (1997). Calcutta Sex Workers’ Manifesto. Retrieved from http://www.bayswan.org/manifest.html
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