Prostitution – Illicit Vice or a Licit Profession?

Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in India. Many people among us think that vice is illegal in India but it is actually not. “The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956” also termed as ITPA says that Prostitution is legal in India. As per the law, prostitutes can carry out their trade privately but cannot legally solicit customers in public. Owning or managing a brothel, child prostitution, and encouraging them are illegal. In spite of this, there are many brothels illegally operating in many Indian cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai.

UNAIDS estimates that there were 657,800 prostitutes in the country in 2018. The vice itself is not an offence under the law but soliciting, brothels, pimping are illegal. It seems that the law is obscure on prostitution itself. Unlike as is the case with other professions, sex workers are not protected under normal labour laws, but they hold the rights to rescue & rehabilitation if they want.

Over the years, India has seen a growing instruction to legalise prostitution, to avoid exploitation of sex workers and their children by middlemen. Also in view of growing HIV/AIDS peril, the prevention and education programme for STI cases among prostitutes can be seen widely. Government organizations like MDACS (Mumbai District AIDS Control Society) have played a very vital role in generating awareness on HIV/AIDS through the assistance in providing free organizing of street campaigns. Most Research done by Sanlaap (an Indian feminist NGO) states that almost a majority number of sex workers in India are in prostitution because of lack of resources for themselves and their children. Their children are more likely to get involved in this kind of work.

There can be many reasons besides lack of resources to be involved in prostitution. Many women and young girls involved in this work usually claimed that they have been introduced in this sex work by agents. Here, agents are those people who have dragged these women and young girls into this work. Many parents themselves drag their children into the quagmire of prostitution due to greed and lack of money.

Many times, girls from great families get trapped in this hellish life of prostitution due to their love affairs. Often boys give false hopes of marriage to them and sell them into the brothels and similarly false hopes of getting jobs in big cities trap small-town girls in these types of snares.If we have to discuss more about these agents, we can say that many surveys show that most of the agents were known people to the prostitutes like neighbours, relatives, etc. and not traffickers. But apart from these, many women choose this work on their own free will, the reason for which is their own physical pleasure and greed because some women find it as an easy source to earn money.

In modern India, there are different types of prostitution prevalent apart from prostitutes in a brothel. This includes bar girls, brothel prostitute, call girls, escort services and Streetwalkers. Prostitution is somehow a problem in itself and child prostitution is making it more complex. Surveys show there are an estimated 1.2 million children involved in prostitution. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu have the largest number of children trafficked. Intrastate/inter-district trafficking is high in Rajasthan, Assam, Meghalaya, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Delhi and Goa are the major receiver states. Prostitution is considered as a taboo in India and that’s why it is not discussed openly but there are many things related to prostitution which need to be discussed including the health of sex workers.

As most women do not choose prostitution, rather they are forced into this type of work because of drug addiction, poverty or lack of education. These factors also lead to a number of health problems in their lives other than HIV and STDs. Prostitution leads to many health problems for the prostitutes like HIV, cervical cancer, psychological disorders, STDs and many others. Many people think that HIV/AIDS is the obstacle of health care among prostitutes. But a major barrier to health care is the lack of information about where to go for treatment or how to obtain health insurance. There are many prevention programmes organized among prostitutes by NGOs. These prevention programmes include activities like education, condom promotion and follow-up of STI cases. A positive outcome of these kinds of prevention programmes reports awareness among prostitutes for preventive measures for STDs such as using condoms.

As of now, we’ve gotten familiar with prostitution, the law on prostitution, its causes & effects on health. So here lies the big question, should prostitution be legalized or should be declared as illegal?

Some people think that prostitution shall be made legal in India and be accepted as a part of society because the problem is inevitable. Some of the benefits of legalizing prostitution in an organized way in India will be:

  • Despite the legalization of prostitution, it always will be quite risky. But in the case of the underground markets such as child sexual exploitation rackets and human trafficking groups, sex workers will be at risk. Legitimating will provide protection to sex workers.
  • There is a direct correlation around the world between the number of rapes and conservative prostitution laws. The less number of sexually frustrated people will lead to fewer sex crimes (rape) in the country.
  • Prostitution provides financial security to the sex workers. Majority of the women sex workers will get financial independence. It will increase the overall productivity of the society.
  • Legalizing prostitution will completely eliminate the middlemen and destroy the brothels.

Now, as we all know prostitution is legal in India. Many people think that giving legality to prostitution in an organized way will just do more harm than any good. It’s quite unfair to say that all women enter into prostitution voluntarily. It is only poverty and lack of resources which lures them into this. By legalizing, it will just encourage more people to indulge in prostitution to make their ends meet. It will certainly have a negative impact on our society. Anybody might get tempted to buy sex which will strain the relationship with their loved ones.

The probability of contracting STDs would become much higher with an increased number of people in this business. So, two sides of the coin here are; legalizing prostitution can prove to be worse in some aspects whereas, on the other hand, it might be beneficial to society. So, we cannot conclude at one point here. As beneficial as it may be to society, it can also be harmful. It all depends on the citizens of our country as in how we accept the legalization of prostitution.


  • Geena

    Very Informative. You have shared the profound detailing about it. Thanks for putting light on this sensitive topic. I loved it🖤

  • Rahul

    Work is simply great.. I’ve known u as a person buy for first time seeing u as a thinker.. keep it up Megha..

  • Disha Chaudhary

    The topic you choose to write upon is all much informative and important in today’s era
    Thanks for coming up with these topics and throwing light of knowledge upon it

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