The writer of the article is a student of Delhi University, pursuing honors.

                                                                 -Harry Anderson

Before getting into the legality of the topic, let’s have a look into what prostitution exactly is.
So, quoting the exact meaning from the dictionary, it goes like- PROSTITUTION IS THE BUSINESS OR PRACTICE OF ENGAGING IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY IN EXCHANGE FOR PAYMENT. Prostitution is highly gender specific globally. Mostly the prostitutes are females with a majority of male customers.
The legality of this profession varies from country to country. Talking about India, prostitution was considered as a part of Indian arts and literature for centuries.To gain an in-depth knowledge about how it started in India, we need to start from scratch.
Prostitution in India is regarded as the oldest profession of all time, where the sex workers were also objectified as tawaif or devadasi. Sometime around 6th century, the practice of dedicating girls to Hindu gods became prevalent in a practice that developed into ritualized prostitution. Devadasi literally means God's (Dev) female servant (Dasi), where according to the ancient Indian practice, young pre-pubertal girls are 'married off', 'given away' in matrimony to God or Local religious deity of the temple. They are forbidden to enter into a real marriage.But according to the 1934 Devadasi Security Act, this practice is banned in India.This ban was reinforced again in 1980s but the law is broken every day. Poverty and 'Untouchability' contribute to the persistence of this terrible practice.Though government has taken adequate steps in order to combat with the problem of devdasi, even the devdasi prohibition act was not fully successful in solving the problem in India.Now this was the old story or the beginning of prostitution apart from these there is also references of prostitution in Kama sutra written by Vatsyayana sometime between the second and fourth centuries A.C.E. Even in the Indian mythology there are a lot of references of celestial demigod, described as embodiments of beauty charms.
This abstract will help to give an overview at the prostitution industry in India as well as the laws relating to it.
India is home to Asia’s largest prostitution industry. The prostitution has continued from ancient and medieval India and has taken a gigantic outlook in modern India as per a report of National human rights commission of India. According to INDIAN PENAL CODE, it is legal to practice prostitution in India. However, activities such as pimping, running a brothel, solicitation with clients in public, kerb crawling, child prostitution (obviously), are considered to be illegal. Despite of being legal, most of the sex workers live in sordid conditions and once they get in there, it gets next to impossible to get out of the quagmire.
As far as the laws are concerned in regard to protect the sex workers and their rights, it can’t be appreciated much because the law is vague on the industry itself.
The law that primarily deals with sex workers is the Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act of 1956. This law states that prostitutes are allowed to ply their trade in private but they cannot carry out their business in the open. This law makes this topic highly debatable and ambiguous, which in turn tapers the sensitivity of the issue. As per laws, clients can be arrested if they indulge in any sexual activity in public. Even though exchange of sex for money is permissible on an individual capacity, a lady cannot do it in within a span of 200 yards of a public place. Sex workers are not within the ambit of normal labor laws. However, they have all the rights that would be enjoyed by a citizen and are entitled to be rescued and rehabilitated if they want to do so. SITA has recently been changed to become PITA or The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. There have been several attempts to change this law so that a bigger slice of blame can be placed on the clients. Over the years, there have been a lot of calls to legalize the act of prostitution in order to prevent middlemen from exploiting of sex workers and their children in the face of growing HIV/AIDS menace.
As an amendment of SITA, The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act was passed in 1986, in order to limit and abolish prostitution in India. It majorly focuses on the following points-

·        SEX WORKERS- Prostitutes will be arrested for soliciting their services or seducing others. In the same vein, call girls are not allowed to make their phone numbers public. They can be imprisoned for a maximum of 6 months along with financial penalties if they are caught doing so.

·        CLIENTS-Clients who consort with prostitutes or indulge in such activities within 200 yards of a designated area can be imprisoned for a maximum of 3 months and they need to pay fines for the same as well. In case, someone indulges in such activities with someone under 18 years old, he or she can be jailed between 7-10 years.

·        PIMPS- Pimps and similar people who live from the income made by a prostitute are guilty as well. For that matter, if an adult man lives with a prostitute he can be regarded as guilty. If he cannot prove himself to be innocent, he can face imprisonment between 2-4 years.

·     BROTHEL-People who run businesses such as brothel-keepers and landlords are liable to be prosecuted as well as they are considered to be illegal. In case of the first offence they will be imprisoned for a maximum of 3 years. In case they forcibly keep someone in their brothel to be used as a prostitute or exploited for sexual purposes, they can be jailed for a minimum of 7 years.

Prostitution is considered a taboo in India and is not discussed openly and a topic frequently frowned upon. However, it poses a huge threat to the fabric of Indian society for its role in weakening the institution of marriage, sexually transmitted diseases, abduction of girl children, isolation of prostitutes from society, physical and mental trauma, etc. It is reported that there are about 38000 sex workers in Delhi. The situation in Mumbai is more depressing. Thus there arises an emergent need to control prostitution.
The abolition of prostitution is a mammoth task as it is an ancient practice and has existed too long. Though it has been described to be illegal, it is still continued. This could be due to a lack of enforcement of laws or due to the inability to restrict this practice. To combat this issue, the legalization of prostitution could be adopted since abolition appears to be a daydream.
The issue of prostitution has become the need of the hour and Governmental agencies are required to address this issue at the earliest. The legalization of prostitution appears to be more practical and feasible than trying to abolish prostitution as the government has been trying it for decades and hardly struck that note.The male prostitution industry is still unrecognized by law which calls for due attention. On that note, laws shall be amended to include men along with women. By and large, NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME TO LEGALIZE PROSTITUTION.


  1. Nice but my question is that if legalized what would be the impact

    1. If prostitution gets legalized, it would positively effect our economy. The thing is that prostitution flourishes in the black market,
      this could end if brothels and hookers gets legitimized, licensed, medically inspected, zoned and taxed. Like drugs, gambling and other crimes of morality, or alcohol prohibition of years past, the black market is nourished by draconian laws that forever fail to accomplish its intended purpose.
      In Germany, and other countries, prostitution is legal and taxed. They turn the 'crime' into an economic plus. But in our country we create the 'crime,' which turns the behavior into an economic negative. And, it's still a thriving business, law or no law.
      As per reports of countries where prostitution is legal,opening the tippelzone has reduced sexual abuse and rape by 30 to 40%,with a 25% decrease in drug related crimes.
      In our country it is legal but activities related to it are illegal,which in my opinion makes no sense.

    2. Thank you for the response, one more aspect that do in your opinion it would also curb the henious offence of rape as they are a serious concern for our society?

    3. Yeah, I agree to what you say,with a legal and easier alternative available, people who wish to satisfy their sexual urges will resort to prostitutes rather than committing heinous crimes such as rapes for the same purpose. With closure of brothels in 1959, Queensland experienced a 149% increase in rate of rape.


Post a Comment