Legalization of Prostitution in India: A Question Of Basic Human Rights in the Indian Society

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India today is one of the foremost developing countries in the world. But is it a better place for all its people to live?

Prostitution is one such issue that faces the outrage of the people. It is defined as sexual intercourse in exchange for money. It is one of the oldest professions known to mankind. Prostitution flourishes in the black market. Inevitably, thousands of women and young girls are trafficked and forced into it.

The sex trafficking rates in India have been increasing at an alarming rate. Thousands of young girls and women are victims of human trafficking. In India, a child goes missing every 8 minutes.

Laws dealing with Prostitution in India

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986 is the main statute relating to prostitution. This is an amendment of the SITA (Immoral Trafficking (Suppression) Act), 1956. The Act mandates imprisonment for soliciting prostitution services or seducing others. If an adult man lives with a prostitute, he will be guilty under this law. Further, Section 372 and 373 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, restrict prostitution.

It is very disheartening that the people who are a part of this profession or forced to be a part lead a miserable life. Yet we don’t have laws to protect them. Instead, we neglect their rights because society looks down upon them. It views their actions as unethical.

In India, there is legislation present to curb human trafficking. Yet, the increasing number of cases is evidence of the lacuna present in the same. Prostitution is legal in India but on a personal basis and not on a public basis. Complete legalization of prostitution has a high possibility of yielding many benefits. For one, the rights of prostitutes will be better protected. Second, the growing concern of human trafficking cases in our country will reduce.

Steps taken by other countries

Many countries in the world have taken the step of legalizing prostitution. New Zealand is one such country that has taken this step. In 2003, New Zealand passed the Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalized prostitution. Before this Act, the number of human trafficking cases was very high in New Zealand. However, after it came into force, there was evidence of trafficking into other industries but not into the sex industry. There was an establishment of proper health and safety standards for sex workers. They began using safer sex practices. Most importantly, they became aware of their rights.

After 5 years, the Parliamentary Committee conducted a review of the Act. They found that there was an increase in the well-being and living conditions of the workers. It showed that the Act made it easier for the sex workers to report abuse, and for the police to regulate it. HIV prevalence had also decreased. In furtherance, sex workers were able to refuse services to their clients.

In Germany, the step of legalizing and taxing prostitution generated revenue. It helped the Government to set up regular medical check-ups for sex workers. It can be an ideal starting point for India.

Possible Outcomes of Legalization of Prostitution in India

In India, crimes against women like rape, domestic violence, and many more are common. Then why is India not recognizing the rights of the sex workers? There is a very high possibility that things would change for the better.

One of the major concerns in our country is the growing number of human trafficking cases. The legalization of prostitution has the potential to solve this problem. Further, the Government can regulate and keep a check on the sex industry.

This step will help to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS. The Government can set up regular medical check-ups for sex workers. It will provide sex workers with easy access to medical facilities. Further, the Government can tax the sex industry and generate revenue.

A person forced to have sexual intercourse without his/her consent is rape. Prostitutes face a similar problem, but it remains unreported. Thus, legalization will help them to approach the authorities and report such crimes.

In 2009, estimated research showed that only 20% of the 5,000 sex workers in Delhi have voter identity cards. So, legalizing prostitution would help them to exercise their citizenship and voting rights.

Legalizing prostitution will provide sex workers with a healthy work environment. This step will make it easier for them to be accepted by society and live with dignity.

Way forward

The basic human rights of sex workers are violated, and it is time for society to accept them. The Government should recognize the rights of sex workers. There should be proper implementation of the laws, and rehabilitation homes should be set up. Sex workers are also human beings and are equal to the other citizens of this country. It is high time that society treats these people with the respect and dignity they deserve.


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