India, a country where history is not just what we
study in our schools but about the values the great kings, queens, scholars,
warriors and the religious text taught us, brotherhood and humanity are not
merely words written in the dictionary but in every Indian heart, but when it
comes to prostitution, one of the oldest profession in India, in fact oldest
profession of the world, the history is forgotten, humanity takes a back seat
and brotherhood hardly spelled. What should we call this a cultural India or a
Hippocratic India? The most interesting part of all this is that the person
considering prostitution as a sin and a prostitute a black spot on the human
race is the one buying sex.
In this paper we will be focusing mainly on the
relation of prostitution and Indian history along with the psychology of the
person buying or selling sex, the problems faced by the sex workers and how
legalization of prostitution can help improve the scenario, and not forgetting
that prostitution is not all about the female prostitutes but also the male
counter-part, although less in number and not in a miserable condition as that
of the former but as Article 14, of the Indian Constitution says, “The state
shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of
laws within the territory of India. ” , while making laws for female sex
workers we cannot eliminate the male sex work.
Sex is a need like any other human need whether we
accept it in that way or not.
History of Prostitution
Everything which exists today has a history of its
own. Some practices started in history and ended in history and some are
followed even today. The history can be broadly classified into three
categories namely religious, ancient and literature.
The religious history is all about the supreme
power which we worship in the name of god, their sayings, teachings, habits and
Indra, the god of rains and also the king in gods, had
beautiful dancers called Apsaras. They were the biggest assets of Indra’s
court; the Vedas do mention some of them, of which Urvasi and Menka are
the most beautiful. Whenever his throne was in danger, he asked the Apsaras
to seduce and distract his enemies with their beauty and dance. At times they
lived together without any marriage ceremony. If we look closely, these Apsaras
are the one which are called prostitutes in today’s world. The Apsaras
were among the courtesans and highly respected and even today their names are
taken with due respect. Not just the Vedas but also the Bible has the mention
of prostitute, where Jesus Christ welcomes a woman in his kingdom knowing that
she is a prostitute.
Nothing has changed but our attitude which has made
the prostitutes suffers. If we worship God and follow their sayings, then why
do we have such a different approach for prostitution and prostitute, from that
of our Gods?
Prostitutes were even common in ancient times, from
the Guptas till Aurangzeb. The practice was similar as that practiced by the
Indra. The prostitutes were asked to sing and dance in the courtroom to
entertain the courtesans and at times they held important positions as well.
The king and other courtesans used to spend time with them to release their
stress and at war time they went along with the troop to provide sexual
services to the soldiers to boost them up and keep them motivated so that they
give their best on the battle field.
The literature is not untouched from the practice,
in earlier days we had codified the practice of prostitution. For instance the
well-known work of Vatsyayan’s Kama sutra, all about human sexual behavior. A
text defining the physical attraction, seduction, sex, sex positions and other
aspects of sex in detail. We have Chanakya’s Arthashasatra, establishing a
well-organized sector for buying and selling of sex, mentioning the minimum
wages and the taxes to be paid by the prostitutes. Ensuring the protection of
the sex workers and the dignity of women. And the mention of prostitutes and
prostitution can also be found in Kalidas’s Abhigyan Shakuntalam and
Meghadhoot. One will be amazed to know that the goddess, we worship today, got
her face through the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, when he portrayed a
prostitute as goddess Saraswati and Lakshmi in one his paintings.
Even the Sculptures are not untouched from the
existence of sex in the society. The historical caves of Ajanta Ellora and the
temples of Khajuraho, have statutes showing various sex positions.
It as if our ancestors were more modern than us,
earlier sex was a piece of art not like today, a taboo. The sex workers were
dually respected and lived with dignity in the society not like today where
they are treated no less than the garbage, humiliated, tortured and the worst
part everyone turns a deaf ears towards their cries. Are we moving towards
modernization or orthodization?
Psychology of Person Buying and Selling Sex
Before legalizing prostitution we need to
understand why we need it, why not eradicate it altogether, why not criminalize
the act if it is creating such a menace in the society. Arguing that it was
practiced by our ancestors does not justify it to be legalized, as every
practice cannot be legalized, for example the practice of ‘sati’, burning the
widow alive on the pyre of her husband, abolished by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in
As everything cannot be treated equally and cannot
be viewed from the same angle and perception as the other, the practice of
buying and selling of sex needs a different perception because even if it is
considered a taboo in the society the sex industry is flourishing, and the
demands for buying sex are still high. It can be termed as a necessary evil.
The reason as to why a person buys sex, what
pleasure does the person gets from sex, and the most important of all, why a
person sells sex needs to be answered. In the above statement, the term person
is deliberately used instead of men/women, as we cannot forget that it is not
only a female who sells sex, we also have male prostitutes in the industry, and
it isn’t that only men goes and buys sex, even women goes to the prostitute to
The people who buy sex are usually the one who
always cites and term it as an evil against morality which is weakening the
roots of the society. If prostitution is against morality then what about the
item numbers which are enjoyed by everyone publically without any shame or
hesitation. If a child says something about sex, immediately he/she is made to
shut the mouth, but if the same child sings or dances on an item number, the
talents are appreciated.
After a hectic schedule of work, one need to relax
and visiting another city with family and friends could be a good relaxing
exercise. Some like to visit places for fun, adventure, love, Memories and some
for sex. Places like Cuba, Venezuela, Caribbean, Goa, Costa Rica, Brazil,
Spain, Thailand, Indonesia and Netherlands, Nevada are famous spots for sex
tourism. The streets are filled with young girls and boys, ready to seduce and
be taken by a potential buyer of their services. One should observe that if
prostitution is not needed in the society then why do people visit different
cities to have sex, and are ready to spend so much. This describes their desire
to have sex, as practically every person may not have a partner to express
his/her feelings and hear some soothing words for them.
“Publisher: Generally who are your clients? SW: I
get mostly married guys, these bastards like taking photos in the same cell
they have a wallpaper of gods they believe in.
Publisher: Don’t you get youngsters? SW: Yeah sometimes,
they come in groups. Think themselves of as real man, but they are just kids,
on in a sec and off in ten. (Laughing out loudly).
Publisher: Are they aware of safe sex? SW: You
kidding me? No 99% of them are not, they are poor illiterate bastards who can’t
even spell sex.”
Above is an excerpt from the interview of a sex
worker (SW), taken by us. The sex worker was abducted at the age of 12 years,
on her way back from school, was raped in the car and forced into the vicious
circle of prostitution. The excerpt is a clear example of how we treat sex and
the sex workers, what kind of clients visit them, the pressure they go through,
and we can say that the legalization could be a step forward to stop their
Bisexual, homosexual and transgender are attracted
towards the industry as they feel isolated from the society and end up sharing
their bed with a sex worker to get a sense of belongingness and also the sexual
need of them is not full filed in the society as they are unable to share their
sexual status and going to a prostitute keeps their sexuality confidential. At
times this is the only source of earning for them which eventually makes them a
The factors which motivate a person to buy sex,
could be to get an experience of how it feels like to have sex with a
prostitute, the want of other kinds of sex, to overcome the emotional backdrops
like loneliness, depression and the lack of belongingness, this is the most
motivating factor in the case of present scenario, the prostitution is treated
like any other services which you pay for, one of the many reasons could also
be to get the feeling of having sex with another women.
Prostitution: A Necessary Evil
Commercial prostitution is exists in every corner
of the world be it recognized by the local governments or not. Uprooting
prostitution will lead to increase in the crime rate and will affect the people
earning their livelihood through prostitution, because not only women but also
men are in this industry, which is growing at a rapid rate in every country.
First we have to understand the need of prostitutes
as to why in our society do we need the? Why is this industry growing at such a
high rate? If they entertain us, then are they not given equal status in the
society? Why are they alien to us? Why do they need to fight for even a simple
thing like the human rights? Are they not humans?
Many are attracted towards the sex industry because
here one can make large sum of money in less hours and efforts than in any
other profession. Also it does not need any qualification or skill, it only
requires a body, made of blood and flesh. No requirement of qualification also
pushes the children of prostitutes into the industry. The point to be noted
here is even before entering into the industry the child is termed as a
prostitute, and no educational institute is ready to admit him/her only because
his/her parents are in the flesh trade. Thus they are left with no other option
Some may say that people buy sex because it is
being sold on the other hand some may even say that it is being sold because
people buy sex. It is similar to the relation between demand and supply studied
in economics, that demand and supply are interdependent, then why do always
blame the sex workers only? Is it not a discriminatory approach towards the
people who are already underprivileged?
The buyers are from the main stream society and
they are the one putting the sex workers in the bad light. In the daylight,
these are the one arguing for criminalization of prostitution and in the moon
light they are arguing to get the services of the best sex worker in the area.
In the course of our research we came across an
interview of a young boy, when asked about his first visit to a prostitute, he
answered that it was his father who took him and his brother to a brothel to be
sure that his children are not gay. This would look as what offence has one
committed for being sure that his children are not gay, but the thing to be
noticed here is the visit to the brothel, this visit encouraged the boy
for further involvement in the industry. The parties of rich businessmen often
invite sex workers to entertain their guest through their dances and sexual
services. Nowadays the bachelors’ parties are trending and involve both male
and female sex workers.
The sexual services are not cheap, they may demand
around Rs1000-2000, per hour and this may increase depending upon the age,
attractiveness, experience of the sex worker and the location of the brothel.
If you want them to be eradicate them from the society then why are you
spending your hard earned money on them?
Need to Legalize Prostitution
The laws are made for proper regulation of the
human conduct. Like the traffic rules which ensure our safety on the roads, and
as the society is evolving so are the laws and it is necessary to amend the
laws to keep up with the change.
A comprehensive study of various reports of WHO,
CSWB, CFLR, UNAIDS, GAATW and AWHRC reveals the facts that prostitutes in India
are mostly minors and there is a rapid increase in the numbers in recent years,
a large number of the sex workers suffer from HIV/AIDS, they do not have access
to medical facilities, the sex industry exists in almost every city of the
country, although there is a well-defined red light area in these cities but
still the flesh trade is carried outside as well.
The only way to regulate it is to legalize the industry,
and implementation of laws in an organized form. The present laws do not give
any protection to the sex worker but to the pimps and the clients, and thus
abolition of existing laws and implementation of new laws is required.
India is being labelled to have highest number of
HIV/AIDS positive patients outside Africa; the practice of prostitution is
blamed to have been the origin of such diseases. To control the spread of
HIV/AIDS in the red light areas, legalisation could be a great help. As if the practice
is being legalised, the prostitutes would be asked for registration and regular
health check-ups would be arranged. If a prostitute is found to be HIV
positive, the registration would be cancelled, and the person would be
rehabilitated under the government’s programmes, such as one run by an NGO
named Rescue Foundation established in 2000 by late Mr. Balkrishna Acharya,
which rescues the girls trafficked from various parts in to India and
rehabilitated through various proactive homes.
In different parts of the world also, the practice
is legalised, if we can borrow their laws for making of our constitution then
we can surely look up to them when legalising prostitution.
Amsterdam, Netherlands is big hub for red light
area and has one the largest red light area in the world, has state governed
prostitution. The policies implemented their could help us a lot while making
our laws as the advantages and disadvantages could be easily identified. The
biggest advantage of legalisation of prostitution in Netherlands was proper
regulation of the industry and control over the sexually transmitted diseases.
There they register the prostitutes, put a age bar of minimum 18 years, conduct
regular health check-ups and also keep a criminal record of them. Although they
are also facing problems like increased trafficking as they provide working
visas for prostitution as well, expansion of the industry because for poor and
unqualified persons this is a good option to earn, the increase was reported to
be around 25% after the practice was legalized.
The legalization of the sex industry will yield
similar advantages and disadvantages in India as well. The advantages are not
to be worried about and not also the disadvantages as a little improvement of
the policy can help to overcome them. Such as to curb the increase in the
trafficking, we should not provide working visas and also when registering a
person, should enquire if he/she is wilfully entering the industry, if not then
proper steps to be taken to make sure they are not forced in it.
The expansion can also be controlled by prohibiting
the practice outside the red light area, by strictly prohibiting advertisement
of brothel or a prostitute outside the red light area in any form is it print
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions of
our country, and as time passed, it has also undergone through lots of
transformations. It is to hard believe that there are some places in India,
where women are forced by their family to sell their body, even before they reach
the age of puberty. Here people take prostitution as the main source of
earning. Majority of women chose to be prostitute willingly or forced by
someone, do it either because of economic backwardness or on the name of age
There are mainly four places in India, where this
profession is running even in the day light with no fear at all. In these
places, males feel no shame in saying that their mother, sister and daughter
are prostitutes. One of these is the village, Natpura in Uttar Pradesh.
Here the tradition of prostitution is 400 years old .The majority of people are
of Nat caste. Out of 5,000 people living in the village, more than 70% of women
are prostitutes; they then migrate to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and
some to Dubai. Children who live here don’t even know their fathers name and
live with their mothers only.
In Madhya Pradesh there is a tribe known as Bachara,
a matriarchal community. Women of this community are said to be as descendants
of royal courtesans. In these tribe women are forced by the males of the family
to carry prostitution, it is compulsory that the eldest daughter of the family
should be a prostitute. They even have a separate room where they do this job.
Wadia village in Gujarat is also known as “village of
sex workers” and famous foe large scale prostitution which is going on here
since last 80 yrs.
Saraniyas is the tribe inhabited here, in Saraniyas
girls are groomed to be prostitutes and boys as pimps. These boys are trained
to find clients and negotiate the rates for the prostitutes.
Conclusion: Thus, in the light of the above points, we would
like to sum up our issues with the following points. Criminalization of
prostitution, including other things that surround sex work is not the real
solution. Sex trade is here to stay, and by recognizing it as a legitimate form
of work, all involved parties can receive guaranteed benefits. It would
effectively lessen the burden on the government in terms of executing
anti-prostitution laws and paying additional law enforcement. In addition,
countries would increase their revenue through taxes, foreign exchange, and
increased employment rate. Countries would also ensure safety environment for
their people because sex workers will be required to undergo medical tests and
receive adequate medical care. More importantly, legalization of prostitution
would protect the rights of sex workers and give these people a chance to live
a normal life they deserve. But of course, it would only be a lot better if the
government will legalize prostitution because it will give the sex workers
rights and protection on their job.