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Evolution Of Prostitution

This page presents an overview of prostitution in India, including its history, evolution, and current circumstances. It looks at the Devadasi system, the colonial period, and the regulatory framework put in place during British control. The difficulties that sex workers encounter, such as violations of their rights and the need for social assistance and legal protection, are explored.

The article examines key laws and significant judgements, focusing on the recognition of prostitution as a profession and the protection of the rights of sex workers. It finishes by arguing for a holistic approach that addresses the underlying causes, prioritises the well-being of sex workers, and takes legal frameworks and policies into account. Efforts to address the demand side, promote gender equality, and expand economic prospects are also mentioned as critical measures towards minimising the negative impacts of prostitution.

The word prostitution means when a person allows others to use their body for monetary exchange. Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world; it has existed since the mediaeval period. In the Rig Veda, it is clear that there was a tradition to give the presents of slave girls to rishis by kings. Ritualised prostitution was developed around the 6th century, when the practise of dedicating girls to Hindu gods became prevalent. They were considered god's female servants and were called 'devdasi', in which 'dev' means god and 'dasi' means female servant.

According to ancient Indian practise, young girls who haven't attained puberty are given the duty of marrying God. The marriage occurs before attaining the age of puberty and requires the girl to become a prostitute for upper caste community members; they are forbidden to enter into a real marriage.

Asia's largest red-light district, Mumbai's controversial Kamathipura, which started out as a huge brothel for British occupiers before switching to a local clientele after Indian independence, has since been established in India. There are numerous prostitution rings operating illegally in Indian cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Chennai. According to UNAIDS estimates from 2016, there were 657,829 prostitutes in the nation. According to some unofficial estimates, there are around 3�10 million prostitutes in India. One of the greatest commercial sex industries in the world is thought to exist in India. It has become a major international centre for sex tourism, drawing visitors from developed nations.

Prostitution is not explicitly illegal in India, despite being deemed unethical by the court. However, certain actions that facilitate prostitution are considered unlawful, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956 (ITPA) makes certain actions�such as running a brothel, living off the money earned through prostitution, soliciting or luring someone into prostitution, and trafficking in children and women for the purpose of prostitution�explicitly unlawful.

Evolution Of Prostitution

In the past, the Devadasi system predominated, where Hindus contributed their female children in exchange for the right to dance in temples and engage in acts of worship. The practise of prostitution was neither criticised nor excluded throughout the Mughal era. Courtesans or tawaifs lived in specific parts of cities titled "kothas" or "bazaars." These women were masters of music, dancing, poetry, conversation, and other fine arts. They hosted elite and powerful clients, including merchants, aristocrats, and members of the royal court.

In the past, prostitutes were treated like executives and had royal patronage, giving them a significant amount of power in governmental affairs. However, over the course of centuries, changes in religion and politics have caused the value of their labour to decline. The tawaifs, or prostitutes, lost their royal support and clients after independence, and the tawaif system eventually faded out as the princely kingdoms and the zamindari system were dissolved. According to research, the tawaifs' descendants started pub dancing in big cities when the royal clientele left because they were not treated with the same respect as they had been prior to independence.

The establishment of brothels and the control of prostitution were aspects of colonial policies in India under British rule. Systems to regulate and manage prostitution were created by the British colonial authority, especially for the benefit of British military personnel, government officials, and European settlers. At this time, social dynamics, economic interests, and British colonial objectives all came together to influence the development of brothels.

Prostitution was heavily regulated under the Contagious Diseases Acts (CDA), which were put into place in several British territories, including India. To prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among the European population, especially the military, these laws were first enacted in the middle of the 19th century. Instead of addressing the issues, the main emphasis was on safeguarding the health of British men rather than addressing the welfare or rights of the women involved.

Growing movements and criticisms of the regulatory system emerged throughout time. These criticisms focused on the exploitation of women, the violation of human rights, and the maintenance of social inequality. The practise of regulated prostitution was contested by social reform movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both within the colonial government and among the indigenous Indian people.

In the end, the regulatory framework started to fall apart, and various colonies abolished the Contagious Diseases Acts. It's crucial to remember that prostitution persisted in numerous forms and that it changed over time as a result of social, economic, and political changes.

Even now, there are still many issues that affect sex workers. Their fundamental human rights are frequently infringed, and they are not treated like people. Prostitution is viewed as an immoral profession and is despised. The irony is that the majority of those who use these services are also the ones who most frequently violate basic sex rights. This can be understood as evidence that sex workers endure a great deal of violence and humiliation at work.

In numerous instances, sex workers who went to police stations to file complaints did not receive justice or any consideration. They also deal with stigmatisation, prejudice, violence, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking, among other issues.

Laws Related To Prostitution

Prostitution is not explicitly illegal in India, despite being viewed as unethical by the court. However, certain actions that facilitate prostitution are considered illegal, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956 (ITPA) makes certain actions like running a brothel, living off of the money earned through prostitution, soliciting or luring a person into prostitution, and trafficking in children and women for the purpose of prostitution explicitly illegal.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act

According to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956, prostitution is the sexual exploitation or abuse of people for commercial objectives. It's also not a crime under the IPC [2]. Despite the fact that sex work is legal, maintaining a brothel is not. It contradicts the entire premise of prostitution.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC), which predates the SITA, is sometimes used to punish sex workers with broad offences like "public indecency" or being a "public nuisance" without clarifying what these are. The original law was revised in 1986 as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, or ITPA.

In addition to the ITPA, the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Indian Constitution of 1950, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, and several state laws have been created to combat prostitution and trafficking.

Right To Profession

Article 19(1)(g) guarantees every person the basic right to engage in the trade, profession, or occupation of his choice while also imposing constraints on the choice of such trade, profession, or company. Nothing in this section grants the right to engage in any profession, trade, or business that is prohibited by law. Section 19(6) empowers Parliament to enact legislation banning certain types of companies, trades, or professions for the good of society.

On the subject of prostitution, there are primarily two types of debates. The first is whether prostitution is a business or a profession. Prostitution is a type of occupation. It cannot be done by everyone and must be done by men or women with specific skills. As a result, it might be called a career. When performed in a brothel, prostitution can also be considered a business. When prostitution is done by a ring or group of women, a substantial amount of money is received. Owning and managing a brothel is prohibited in India, but prostitution is legal.

When performed in a brothel, prostitution can also be considered a business. When prostitution is done by a ring or group of women, a substantial amount of money is received. Owning and managing a brothel is prohibited in India, but prostitution is legal.

Related Judgements
In an important decision, the Supreme Court directed the police not to interfere with or punish consensual sex workers. It declared that prostitution is a 'profession' and that sex workers have the right to dignity and equal legal protection.

The three-judge bench, led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, issued six instructions to protect the rights of sex workers. "Sex workers are entitled to equal legal protection," the court stated. On the basis of age and consent, criminal law must apply equally in all circumstances. When it is obvious that the sex worker is an adult who is engaged with consent, the police must refrain from interfering or initiating criminal action. It goes without saying that, regardless of vocation, everyone in this country has the right to a dignified existence under Article 21 of the Constitution."

The court stated that sex workers should not be detained, punished, harassed, or victimised during brothel searches because voluntary sex work is not a crime and only running a brothel is. The court also encouraged police personnel not to discriminate against sex workers who file sexually motivated crime accusations. Sexual assault victims who work in the sex business should be given access to all available resources, including immediate medical and legal help.

Budhadev Karmaskar vs. West Bengal State
This is a landmark decision that cleared the path for the protection of sex workers' rights. This story highlights the vulnerability of sex workers as well as the social stigma they face. The judgement supported sex workers' right to dignity under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Her example exemplifies the plight of sex workers, who do it not because they enjoy it but because poverty forces them to. Because of the social stigma linked to their work, individuals do not have the right to live with dignity.

Kajal Mukesh Singh and Others vs. Maharashtra State
According to the Bombay High Court, the law does not criminalise sex workers but rather attempts to protect them. Sexual exploitation for economic objectives, such as pimping, recruitment, or seduction in public areas, is prohibited by law. It is also prohibited to run a brothel or enable its premises to be used for prostitution. People who trade their bodies for money are sufferers, not perpetrators, according to the law. The Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956 criminalises the support networks that enable and facilitate prostitution rather than the act of prostitution itself.

Prostitution is a complex and diverse issue in India that demands serious analysis and a thorough strategy. Following an examination of the numerous views and aspects surrounding the topic, it is obvious that no single conclusion can be reached. Some crucial points, however, can be highlighted.

To begin, it is critical to acknowledge that prostitution occurs in India and is an unavoidable reality. It is caused by a number of social, economic, and cultural reasons, such as poverty, gender inequality, and a lack of chances. It is absurd to wish for its abolition without addressing the fundamental reasons.

Second, the well-being and safety of sex workers must be prioritised. Many people enter the profession because of circumstances beyond their control, and they encounter a variety of hazards, including exploitation, violence, and health problems. Efforts should be made to provide them with social support, healthcare, legal protection, and opportunities for alternative income.

Third, legal frameworks and prostitution policies must be carefully considered. Globally, various approaches exist, ranging from criminalization to legalisation and regulation. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. It is critical to achieve a balance that protects the rights and dignity of sex workers while also addressing trafficking, exploitation, and organised criminal concerns.

Finally, it is critical to address the demand side of prostitution. Focusing solely on the supply side, such as prosecuting sex workers, is ineffective. Efforts should be made to educate and raise client understanding of the ethical implications and consequences of their conduct. Furthermore, initiatives to promote gender equality, empower women, and provide economic possibilities can help lower prostitution demand.

To summarise, the issue of prostitution in India necessitates a comprehensive and holistic strategy that considers the well-being and rights of sex workers, underlying causes, and demand-side variables. It is possible to lessen the damages connected with prostitution and strive for a more equal and just society by addressing these factors and working towards social and economic empowerment.

  1. Agarwal, A., & Sarkar, A. (2020). Prostitution in India: A Review. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, 14(3), 3200-3206.
  2. Bhanot, M. (2019). Prostitution in India: An overview of existing laws and regulations. In S. Gupta & S. Roy (Eds.), Gender Issues and Social Justice (pp. 423-443). Springer.
  3. Chakraborty, A. (2019). Prostitution in India: An analytical overview. International Journal of Advanced Research, 7(3), 1028-1034.
  4. Kaur, S., & Kumari, A. (2021). Prostitution and law in India: A critical analysis. Journal of Public Administration and Governance, 11(2), 221-235.
  5. Rani, M. (2019). Prostitution in India: A socio-legal analysis. International Journal of Recent Technology and Engineering, 7(6), 188-195.
  6. Sarkar, S., & Maiti, K. (2018). Prostitution in India: A critical analysis. Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Research, 3(7), 505-513.
  7. Upadhaya, S., & Hossain, M. M. (2019). Prostitution and its legal framework in India. Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 24(1), 50-55.

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