Status of Prostitution and Related Crimes In India
Introduction and Historical Background
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions. In India, it was practiced extensively, so much so that Kautilya mentions it in his master piece ‘Arthashastra’ written around the 4th and 3rd century before Christ. Chanakya’s writes “Providing sexual entertainment to the public using prostitutes (Ganika) was an activity not only strictly controlled by the State but also one which was, for the most part, carried on in state-owned establishments. Women who lived by their beauty (rupajivas) could, however, entertain men as independent practitioners; these could have been allowed to practice in smaller places which could not support a full-fledged state establishment. A third type of women of pleasure, mentioned in a few places, is pumsachali, perhaps meaning concubines.”
In ancient India, there was a practice of having Nagarvadhus, "brides of the town" (grooms). Famous examples include Amrapali, state courtesan and Buddhist disciple, described in Vaishali Ki Nagarvadhu by Acharya Chatursen and Vasantasena, a character in the classic Sanskrit story of Mricchakatika, written in the 2nd century BC by Sudraka. In Goa, a former Portuguese colony in India, during the late 16th and 17th centuries, there was a community of Japanese slaves, who were usually young Japanese women and girls brought or captured as sexual slaves by Portuguese traders and their South Asian lascar crewmembers from Japan.
The Indian Government however, in order to implement the International Convention by the same name signed at New York on the 9th May, 1950, introduced the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act in 1954 which criminalized Prostitution. Consequently, whether innocent women are saved by police action from rape or not, the Police are certain to bust one prostitution racket or another periodically. A study in Illinois, USA recently found that police account for 30 percent of all reported abuse, compared with just 4 percent arising from pimps. Criminalizing it has had a serious impact on scores of women who are constrained to depend on “survival sex” for basic human needs such as food and shelter.
During the British East India Company's rule in India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; it was initially fairly common for British soldiers to frequently visit local Indian nautch dancers. Likewise, Indian lascar seamen taken to the United Kingdom frequently visited the local British prostitutes there. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands or even millions of women and girls from continental Europe and Japan were trafficked into British India, where they worked as prostitutes servicing British soldiers and local Indian men.
Districts bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka, known as the ‘devadasi belt’, have trafficking structures operating at various levels. Brothels are illegal de jure but in practice are restricted to certain areas of any given town. Though the profession does not have official sanction, little effort is made to eradicate or impede it. Now-a-days The largest and best-known red-light districts are Sonagachi in Kolkata, Kamathipura in Mumbai, G. B. Road in New Delhi, Kashmiri Market in Agra, Ward No. 14, Silchar Assam and Budhwar Peth in Pune host thousands of sex workers. In recent years red-light centers across India are commonplace for international sex tourism. Earlier, there were centers such as Maduahdiah in Varanasi, Naqqasa Bazaar in Saharanpur, Chaturbhuj Sthan in Muzaffarpur, Peddapuram and Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh, Meerganj Allahabad Ganga Jamuna Nagpur, and Kabadi bazaar of Meerut.
For ethical reasons, differing from one place to another, few governments speak on Prostitution. But we all do when there arises a crime related to the same. This calls on a need to Address the issue once and for all. Prostitution describes the offering and provision of sexual Services for financial gain. In some countries prostitution itself is not illegal but there are a Number of offences linked to it. Prostitution is sometimes referred to as the oldest profession. As It meets the natural urges of humans in return for money and is often claimed to be as old as Civilization itself.
For instance, it is an offence to control a prostitute for gain or to keep a brothel.
Prostitution has a close affinity with a host of other important social issues in particular crime,
Drugs, sexual equality, poverty and health. In India, prostitution (the exchange of sexual services for money) is legal under certain conditions, and a number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing brothel, pimping and pandering, are crimes. In India Prostitution is legal but a number of activities that come alongside it are crimes. There is a lot of Controversy brought about by prostitution especially when a major crime like murder is Committed. In a majority of cases in India extreme deprivation and lack of education seems to be the cause of prostitution not sexual and psychological aberrations that these workers are branded for.
There is a general agreement that the status quo of prostitution in India is problematic, But there is no consensus on what should be done. There is an ideological disagreement between Those who want to see prostitution eliminated, generally because they view it either as an Exploitative or unacceptable part of society, and those who view prostitution as a transaction Between consenting adults and advocate decriminalization. While the prohibition of the activities Surrounding the sex trade makes it difficult to practice prostitution without breaking any law, the act of exchanging sex for money has never been illegal in Canada, a situation which has created
and continues to create confusion and controversy. In order to curb the rising spate of rapes, the Indian government on 23rd of December 2012 declared prostitution as legal in the country. This is the latest in the step of measures taken by the UPA regime to defend itself after shedding crocodile tears, shelling tear gas on protestors, shutting down metro services in Delhi and also conniving with Baba Ramdev to join the protests so that the genuinely-protesting men and women will get disgusted by his presence and voluntarily disperse from the area.
The great merit of prostitution that is easily accessible, cheap, disease free and free from the clutches of the law is that it can have an impact on preventing a crime like the recent gang rape of Nirbhaya. Just as prohibition raises the cost of liquor since the cost of evasion from the authorities has to be factored as also pay offs to the police- criminalizing prostitution has a similar effect on its easy and cheap availability. The New York Times in 2008 carried the story of Zeba, a high Class Prostitute, who charged $4000 for an hour of sex- a price that is regarded as very high. The same story reported that “non-governmental agencies estimate there are two million sex workers, most of them pushed into the trade by crushing poverty. Many are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”
The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956, the main statute dealing with sex work in India, does not criminalise prostitution or prostitutesper se, but mostly punishes acts by third parties facilitating prostitution like brothel keeping, living off earnings and procuring, even where sex work is not coerced.
Penal Code 1860,Sec. 372. Selling minor for purposes of prostitution, etc. -- Whoever sells, let’s to hire, or otherwise disposes ... employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person or for any unlawful and immoral and shall be punished with imprisonment which may extent to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. Section 373. Buying minor for purposes of prostitution, etc. Whoever buys hires or otherwise obtains possession …for the purpose of prostitution shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extent to ten years, and shall also liable to fine.
This being a sensitive area in the country less people will prefer even mentioning it, yet it contributes immensely on the crime rates. many a times we move in the streets, follow the media and we are bothered with questions:
a) is there a way that the law can help eradicate prostitution related crimes?
b) how can we sensitize and educate the society concerning prostitution and related crime?
c) if we have to accept prostitution as part of our lifestyle, how can we better the life, safety, and working condition of those involved in the trade?
d) how can we change the mentality and perception of the general people concerning prostitution?
e) are the various laws concerning prostitution helping reduce prostitution related crimes?
The above points makes one to ponder, hence my aim is to address the issues through a research
That can help:
1) to reduce prostitution related crimes.
2) to sensitize the society from the effect that come along with prostitution.
3) in cases where prostitution cannot be eradicated they finding of my research will help improve the safety, health, and working condition
4) to find ways where the laws of the land can incorporate prostitution to help reduce crimes that come along with.
Merits of the research to the wider community
There is a dire need for the problems/ root causes of prostitution related crime to be Addressed. But very few governments speak on them. My research is meant to change the face of prostitution and eradicate related crimes in the community. This can be done by getting back to the concerned governments with ideas on how to implement set laws, and even recommend new measures concerning the same. I also want to come up with a way that can be implemented to educate the mass on prostitution which will be helpful in the long run. It would also be a good thing if the government in the concerned areas can better the living standards of the people in the “trade” if they have to keep it legal. How to get to the society despite ethical issues can also be a bonus if we get to the grass root. This in turn will help reduce crimes related to prostitution.
Prostitution is often described as the oldest profession. Not surprisingly, the ethics of prostitution have often been debated. In general, most people claim that it is morally unacceptable. Yet, like all such practices, it continues to thrive-as recent headlines will attest.
The topic at hand is so sensitive when it comes to ethical values. Like gay marriage and abortion, it faces many challenges in many areas when it comes to public interest or opinion. In the face of religion, there are as well many points to consider when dealing with it.
Prostitution should not always bear the brunt of condemnation for abuse or inspiring abuse. The sheer folly of getting involved with people so obviously unscrupulous has to be noted as a contribution to scenarios of abuse.
Therefore, when carrying out the research, care has to be taken with respect to ethical values especially now that it’s a marginalized “trade”. At a personal level, I t may not sound right to the society if I have to walk into brothels for some days in the name of research! But it’s all for the good of the society.
If there is a way that we can accept whom we are, then we can easily forge our way in crime reduction. There has been a great deal in the fight against prostitution related crimes, yet we cannot deny the existence of prostitution. It’s part of our lifestyle! Are we killing the bad trees or just cutting the branches only for them to grow when it rains? This research aims at uprooting the crimes fully by identifying the root problems taking ethical issues into consideration.
1. “Prostitution and Criminology”, BBC news 2012.
2. “Prostitution in India”, http://www.independent.org
3. “Feminist Issues in Prostitution”, Sarah Bromberg 2nd Edition.
4. Sarah Bromberg, Carolyn (1995) Family, law and religion.
5. Indian Penal Code 1860 And Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956.