Prostitution in India

Prostitution in India

In the Indian context, prostitution is not expressly illegal, but it is ruled immoral by the Court, certain acts that encourage prostitution are considered illegal, and acts such as running a brothel, living off the money procured through prostitution, soliciting or prostituting a individual, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 (ITPA) allows trafficking in children and women for the purposes of prostitution, etc. expressly illegal. For example, running a sex racquet is illegal but it may not be illegal to have private prostitution or to obtain remuneration in return for sex with consent without prior solicitation.


Laws on Prostitution

ITPA defines “prostitution” as sexual exploitation or abuse of a woman for monetary purposes and the person who receives the commercial profit is the “prostitute.” The 1860 Indian Penal Code also mentions prostitution but is limited to child prostitution. Nevertheless, it aims to counter practices such as kidnapping in general, kidnapping for seduction purposes and luring a person into sex, importing a child for sex from a foreign country, etc.

In addition, Article 23(1) of the Constitution forbids human and beggar trafficking and other related forms of forced labour. Article 23(2) states that any violation of this section shall constitute an offense punishable under the constitution.


Main Provisions of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956:

This Act obscures the prevention of prostitution among women and girls and the achievement of a public objective viz. Rescuing the fallen women and girls and stamping them out of prostitution, while also supplying them with every opportunity to become respectable members of society. This Act seeks to criminalize the activities of prostitution as mentioned above and authorizes the police to prosecute them, close brothels and transfer them to facilities that can transform them. It empowers the Central Government to set up a special tribunal to prosecute crimes under this Act.

In 1956, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act declared certain acts illegal. Such activities include soliciting prostitution, running a brothel or allowing other places to be used as brothels, living on the earnings of money from a prostitute, Induce or abduct a girl for sex, detain girls in brothels, seduce people under sex custody and prostitute themselves within 200 meters of any public room, such as schools , colleges, temples, hospitals, etc.

Laws for the protection of sex workers

Forced prostitution is where, due to various reasons, the young children or teenagers are coerced into prostitution. Indian Penal Code, 1860, punishes child prostitution, including the sale and purchase of minors for prostitution purposes. Section 372 of the Code provides at least ten years’ imprisonment for a person who sells a minor for prostitution purposes. Section 373 of the Code awards ten years in prison for the purchase of a minor for prostitution purposes.

The right to life enshrined in Article 21 shall also extend to a prostitute. This was clarified in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar v West Bengal State It claimed that sex workers are human beings and no one has the right to attack or kill them because they have the right to live too. The judgment also highlighted the plight of sex workers and empathizes that these women are compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty, and directed the central government and state governments to open rehabilitation centers and to impart technical and vocational skills such as sewing in order to attain other means of living. Following that way, Section 21 has been inserted in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act as a provision for the State Governments to create and maintain safe homes and these should be governed by licenses issued by them. A appropriate authority should be named to perform an inquiry into the application of the safety homes licence. These licenses can not be moved, and are valid for the specified time only. Through virtue of Section 23 of the Act, the Government is empowered to make ancillary rules for licensing, operating , and maintaining security homes or ancillary matters.



Legalization of Prostitution:

The abolition of prostitution is a difficult task because it has existed so long and is an ancient practice. While it was identified as illegal, it is still continuing. This may be due to a lack of law enforcement or the failure to regulate the activity. The legalization of prostitution may be introduced to counter this problem as abolition seems a daydream. Prostitution in India is considered a taboo and is not discussed freely, and is frequently commented upon. However, for its role in weakening the institution of marriage, sexually transmitted diseases, abduction of girl children, alienation of prostitutes from society, physical and mental abuse, etc., it poses a major threat to the fabric of Indian society. There are currently about 50,000 sex workers in Mumbai. Thus there arises an emergent need to control prostitution.


Pros and Cons of legalizing prostitution:

If prostitution is legalized, the State must take responsibility for running brothels and by granting a license to approved persons, it will fulfill that duty. It will also formulate guidelines on the age of prostitutes, client base database, appropriate compensation and medical facilities for prostitutes. By this process the prostitutes will obtain such rights such as the right to medical treatment, their children’s right to education, the right to abuse and rape, etc. This approach will ease the eradication of sex racquet operations, secret prostitution and street prostitution, prostitute violence, etc. Safety houses will be set up for those prostitutes who have lost their livelihood or those who have been coerced into prostitution but no longer want that lifestyle. The government should also provide these prostitutes with training and basic education in order to find other means of earning money and maintaining their lives.

On the other side, prostitution legalization could be misinterpreted as the implementation of prostitution. This could pave the way for prostitutes to make easy money and could encourage more women to practice prostitution. There is a great possibility that this will be the government’s revenue-generating industry. Thus rules must be strict in regulating this industry so that it is not legitimized and that is the least the government can do to address this issue.



Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal 1st Year

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