Prostitution comes from the Latin word "prostituere" which means to expose
publically. In layman's terms prostitution can be expressed as providing sexual
favours in return of money. Like other forms of violence that are committed in
India, prostitution can be said to be a gender specific form of violence as a
majority of the victims are women. However we cannot say that men are not
victims of the same, also the transgender community can be counted in as a major
part of the victims today.
Prostitution itself is an old civilization of India, it has been a part of our
society since marriages were first introduced. Prostitution happens in different
structures around the world, and its lawful nature changes from nation to
nation. Brothels are the basic foundation of prostitution and are responsible
for a major part of its regulation.
Causes and history of prostitution in India:
Poverty is a major cause of prostitution in India. In the Indian society, it is
comparatively difficult for a woman to be financially independent and also a
majority of women today are deprived of education and other skills that could
make them financially stable, prostitution thus becomes a way of earning money
for the same group. Lack of sex-education, kidnapping and abduction are also
major causes for the practice of prostitution in India.
Legality of prostitution in India and its reliefs:
Even though prostitution can be considered as a major problem in India, it is
nowhere specifically mentioned to be illegal in India. The major laws related to
the practice of prostitution are mentioned in the Immoral Trafficking Act, 1956
and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 2(f) of the Immoral Trafficking Act
defines "prostitution" as sexual exploitation or misuse of any person for any
business purpose, whereas the Indian Penal Code also talks about prostitution
but is very limited and deals with child prostitution only dealt under Sections
372 & 373 of the same.
The Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act, 1956 is also known as SITA. This act
gives laws dealing with problems such as, allowing prostitutes to practice their
trade in private places but not in public areas, dealing with prostitutions
being conducted in brothels etc.
Given below are the important sections that deal with the regulation and control
of prostitution in the territory of India:
- Section 3: It deals with the punishments for keeping a Brothel (defined in
Section2(a)) or allowing any premises to be used as a brothel
- Section 4: It deals with the penalties implied on anyone living on the
earnings of prostitution.
- Section 5: It deals with the activities of procuring, inducing or taking
any person for the sake of prostitution.
- Section 6: It deals with penalties for any person who detains a sex
worker in any premises where the act of prostitution is carried on.
- Section 7: It deals with penalties for carrying out prostitution in or
near (in the vicinity) of any public place.
- Section 8: It penalises any sex worker for seducing/soliciting any person for
the purpose of prostitution.
The Immoral Traffic (prevention) Act was passed in 1986 and is an amendment of
the Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act, 1956. As per this prostitutes can be
arrested for seducing others towards their services, call girls are not allowed
to make their phone numbers public etc.
Those who violate the laws given under this act can be imprisoned for a maximum
period of 6 months along with penalty. In case of someone indulging in the
activities of prostitution of someone below the age of 18, the person can be
sentenced to jail for a period of 7- 10 years. Also article 23(1) of the
Constitution of India prohibits the trafficking of human beings and any such
offence is punishable under article 23(2) of the Constitution of India.
Supreme Courts Recent Judgment on Prostitution:
On 27th May, 2022 the Supreme Court of India recognized prostitution as a
profession and said that sex workers are entitled to equal status and dignity
under the eyed of law. The Supreme Court said that sex-workers should not be
arrested, penalised, harassed or victimised during raids on brothels.
In cases where it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is practicing the
profession with consent, then the police must refrain from interfering or taking
any criminal action against them. The Supreme Court laid down that every
individual in this country has the right to live with dignity under article 21
of the constitution. Also a sex worker's child should not be deprived of her
mother's care on the ground that she is a sex-worker.
The court also instructed the police not to discriminate against the sex-workers
while lodging a complaint, if the offence against them is of sexual nature. A
major point of the judgment was that use of condoms "should not be construed by
the police as an evidence of offence by sex-workers".
Also, sex workers should be produced before a magistrate and should be send to
correctional homes for not less than 2-3 years, wherein if the magistrate
decides that the sex-worker has consented, they could be set out of the same.