"The only thing that the government has done for us is to label us as prohibited
. Forget having an access to a better life. We have been denied even
the basic human rights."
This was quoted by a sex worker which explains how deprived these sex workers
are legally. They beg for their rights because they are not are considered as
humans like us .Society treats them as mere slaves. The treatment that they have
been given has been influenced by societal ,religious and cultural attributes.
Prostitution refers to the trade related to the body which simply means selling
sexual services in return of money.
According a report by National Aids Control
Organization the estimated number of female sex workers are over 8 lakhs and
there are more than 6000 female sex workers who suffers from physical violence
and other forms of exploitation and abuse according to National Crimes Record
Bureau report 2020-2021.
According to a report made by Ministry of Home Affairs
which titled national crime records statistics which stated about the crimes
related to women . It was estimated that more than 110 women of all age groups
were abducted for the purpose of forced prostitution in which 50 of them were
minors. In current scenario prostitution is not completely illegal and not made
punishable .But forcefully involving someone without its will such as
trafficking ,soliciting are illegal and punishable under the law.
The act which
deals with all these activities is the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act
This act penalizes a punishment for keeping a brothel, soliciting in a public
place, living off the earning of sex work and inducing or procuring someone for
Prostitution is one of the complicated and neglected social taboo .People have a
judgmental approach towards people who work in sex industry. The mental torture
that is being given to them is unbelievable, they are not treated as a part of
the society. There are situations where people working in kotha
daughters are being asked about their �PRICE
� when they are seen in public ,they
are not even allowed to enroll in a educational institutions.
Poverty is the main
factor of the vast sex trade followed by illiteracy. Despite being below the
poverty line, these sex workers should have the right to access social security
benefits through government policies such as the Right to Food, Right to
Education, Employment Guarantee Programmes, NRHM, etc.
However, due to their
lack of recognition or registration, they are unable to avail themselves of any
benefits from these schemes. These people beome the prey of the Rackets involved
in trafficking.In fact the women in sonagachi even work for 30-40 rupees, also
the population of prostitutes being high makes the demand and variety low.Red
light areas are the place where the whole sex trade is operated.
Sonagachi is one
of the largest and the most predominant red light area where the sex trade has
been thriving since years followed by Kaamathipura (Mumbai),Garstin bastion
road (New Delhi), Meerganj (Allahabad). Chaturbhuj Sthan (Muzzafarpur) and a lot
more undiscovered places. Also according to other researchers ,lured because of
lovers and social media ,desertion by lover or spouse is also a major factor of
women who choose this profession voluntarily. The desires to live a luxurious
life lure many women, youngsters to get into this industry.
Indian Legal Framework
The regulations governing sex work in India are embedded in key legal
frameworks, including the Constitution of India (1950), the Indian Penal Code
(1860), and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956). The Constitution, with
its emphasis on equality, freedom of association, and personal liberty, not only
ensures the prevention of human trafficking and forced labour but also upholds
the principles of a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.
Regardless of gender, caste, religion, or status, the Constitution safeguards
the rights of citizens, as outlined in various articles:
- Article 14 guarantees the right to equality before the law, promoting a life free from discrimination.
- Article 15 prohibits discrimination based on sex, caste, race, religion, or place of birth.
- Article 21 ensures the right to personal liberty and life.
- Article 32 allows citizens to seek enforcement of their rights through the Supreme Court. 
The Indian Penal Code, amended in 2013, addresses sexual harassment, with
Section 354 specifically penalizing acts that outrage a woman's modesty.
Additionally, the legal framework includes provisions in Chapter 22 for offenses
like criminal intimidation and insult against women.
Under the Directive Principles of State Policy, Part IV mandates equal rights
for men and women in livelihood opportunities, protection of worker well-being,
and the prevention of citizens from engaging in unsuitable occupations due to
necessity. These principles underscore the state's responsibility in fostering
respect for international law, treaty obligations, and safeguarding weaker
sections of society from social injustice. The Indian Penal Code contains over
20 provisions addressing trafficking, particularly related to abduction for
illicit intercourse and wrongful confinement.
In summary, India's legal framework, rooted in constitutional principles and
legislative acts, seeks to ensure equality, prevent trafficking, and protect the
rights and dignity of all citizens.
Legalization Of Prostitution In India
It was December 2009 when a bench of judges comprising justice Dalveer Bhandari
and AK P-Patnaik told solicitor general Gopal Subramanium "When you say it the
oldest profession in the world and when you are not able to restrain it by laws
, why don't you legalize it? You can then monitor the trade, rehabilitate and
provide medical aid to those involved in the trade". The court advised to
legalize the worlds oldest profession and said nowhere in the worlds such
measures are taken.
Prostitution is not explicitly illegal but the court has announced it as
unethical. India's legal approach is one of the limited tolerance, where being a
prostitute is not an offence so as practicing private and independent sex work
but practicing in a public place is a punishable offence.
Few activities that
facilitate prostitution such as running brothels, soliciting, trafficking and
pimping are illegal and are punishable under the law. For example running a
racket is illegal but private prostitution or receiving a remuneration in
exchange of sex with consent is not illegal.
This is punishable under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956
which governs all the laws related to it in
India .It aims at preventing and combating human trafficking and sexual
exploitation, specifically of women and girl child. Section 3 of the act
describes a punishment for running a brothel or allowing to run a brothel at
one's private place.
Section 4 of the act describes punishment for a person over
the age of eighteen years for sustaining his/her livelihood on the income earned
by a prostitute. Section 5 of the act describes punishment for those who forces
sex workers or influence and deceive them to work for the sake of
Section 6 of the act describes punishment for the brothel owners
who restrains a sex worker in the brothel or wherever prostitution is being
carried out. Section 7 of the act describes punishment if prostitution is
carried out in public places or crowded place. Section 8 of the act describes
punishment for the prostitutes for seducing and soliciting a person to be
sexually involved with them publicly.
Also in 2006 a proposal was given to bring an amendment to increase existing
punishment and fine amount for those people who visit brothel for sexual
exploitation of traffic victims. But till now the amendment has not been passed.
The supreme court of India in the landmark judgement Budhadev Karmaskar vs state
of west Bengal
 held that prostitutes also have a right to life under article
21 and should live with dignity and discussed right of sex workers. It has
recognized prostitutes as humans and no one has the right to assault or kill
Under Article 142 the court invoked its special power which provides power
to the Supreme Court to pass such order as it is necessary for doing complete
justice. Therefore, private sex has not been recognized as an offence and hence
any customer cannot be penalized under this.
Socio Economic Conditions
The legality of prostitution and the frameworks associated with it is quite
complicated and depth analysis is to be made to understand the socio economic
condition. Its quite evident that the restrictions made by the legislation is
the sole reason for the vast sex trade in india.
Firstly the law aims to protect the rights ,violence and exploitation of sex
workers against those without whom prostitution cannot take place which is the
customers of it. Due to which the intervention and impact of the law is very
limited while the provisions of the law are very clear. Also the attitude of the
police and judiciary is no different. For this reason during the police raids
the police catches the prostitute instead of the brothel owners or the
As discussed earlier Section 7 and Section 8 of Immoral Traffic Prevention Act
penalises punishment for prostitution being carried out in public place and
soliciting and seducing in the public pace respectively. This resulted in
localization of sex trade limited to one area of the city. The red light areas
kept growing with time and functioned in large scale.
After being limited to one
part of the city the trade of sex work thrived and the people behind this which
mainly refers to the people involved in trafficking to the buyer or the owners
of the brothels became the sole reason of flourishing the trade of sex to its
peak level. Since the maximum population of prostitutes survive in red light
areas,the are absolutely homeless.
Due to which it gave liberty to the brothel
owners to scale their business as the prostitutes will completely rely and
depend on them.Brothels are still functioning in red light areas away from the
crowd and the sex workers are still being treated and exploited in the same way
as they were treated before.
The health and welfare of sex workers is an issue of great concern. The brothels
owners or the madam
take sick women to the unlicensed doctors in the red
light areas who gives the women mood elevators or IV Drips and in return the madams
get commission for this.
Conclusion And Suggestions
Stigmatized by society, prostitution is an occupation met with disdain, labeling
those involved as unclean and shameless. India's regulations on prostitution are
currently weak and ambiguous, lacking a reliable enforcement system. Therefore,
the necessity for enhanced regulation in this industry is undeniable.
decriminalization of sex work would allow sex workers in India to engage in
their profession without facing police harassment, a significant concern
highlighted by Geetanjali Gangoli in 1998. This step is considered, at the very
least, a partial solution to alleviate some of the challenges faced by sex
After examining all the factors ,dimensions and making a deep analysis of the
socio economic conditions of people involved in prostitution we draw the
conclusion that decriminalization of sex work has not improved the condition of
women in this industry.A legal approach is needed to ensure the safety of the
public and sex workers.
Proper attention should be given to health care issues
like growth of STDs and human trafficking. In India,the varied societal elements
contribute to a commonly negative perception of prostitution. They often form
their own community and their revolves around that circle. Prostitution should
be considered as a profession like other profession and remove the tag of
illegitimacy should be removed.
They should be allowed to access employment
rights and other human rights like others.We can only solve this problem if the
entire society is sensitized and government's scheme reach such prostitutes.
Hence by legalizing prostitution with proper execution and observation will
solve the societal stigma associated with it.
- Brutal murder case of a sex worker.
- A woman who runs a house of prostitution.
- From https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/GSICC/Vishaka_vs_Rajasthan.pdf
- Section 2(f), Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956.
Written By: Anwesha Priyadarsini