Prostitution – Everybody’s Problem, Nobody’s Business

Eureka! I have found the biggest problem of the world!

It’s taken me a lot of work, keeping myself updated on the happening around the world, interaction with a lot of people and thorough research. But I have finally found the disease that has affected nations across the globe. It’s called – Who’s Sleeping with Whom! No seriously, just look at the recent protests and rulings. Protests against the LGTB community, religious rulings against premarital sex and homosexual sex (I have to whack you on the head if you say that you are not against homosexuals, but just against homosexuality), and court rulings supporting the religious bigotry.

So when we talk about sex workers, it’s the worst of all evils. Sex for money! That’s not a profession; medicine is a profession, law is a profession, not prostitution. It’s not a business; producing liquor is a business, selling toys is a business, not prostitution. What is it, then? Ask us Indians. We are experts in standing up against something for which there is no logical basis, and we give the most popular excuse for it – it is against our culture! And then we stop listening to your reasoning about how that’s actually not true by putting our fingers in our ears and singing ‘la la la’.

Over the past few years, I have heard some ridiculous arguments against the legalisation of prostitution. To name a few – Indian culture does not support it (wonder why the Arthashastra also talks about it then); it is immoral (nothing good comes after this); it is illegal (hence the question of legalisation, you nitwits!); there will be prostitutes all around the country (I have tried answering that – bad decision). The list in endless, and I am just going to skip that for the sake of my sanity.

However, there are genuine concerns over the legalisation of prostitution. Donna M. Hughes, the anti-sexual violence activist, said “Legalisation will not end abuse; it will make abuse legal”. Research shows that the countries where prostitution was legalised have a higher inflow of human trafficking. ‘The unknown pen’ details this argument is brilliant detail. Many of you might have watched this video which went viral, which was a flash mob of ‘sex workers’ dancing in Amsterdam’s red light district to raise awareness of human trafficking.

But every coin has two sides. Even though legalisation of prostitution might encourage pimps and not the sex workers themselves, granting legal aid to a human being can never result in pushing them to a worse situation. It is an undeniable fact that in India, there are more than three million sex workers, almost half of whom are under the age of 18. The rate of increase in the number is alarming. India has the world’s largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS. You see, barring all the other sects, races and genders discriminated by the society, a mere industry has over 3 million people being treated as second class citizens. The prostitutes do not have any basic human rights or legal aid available to them.

Human rights – the basis of every legal system in the world, the roots of civilisation and a concept that we have been grappling since the beginning of time. It sounds very righteous on paper; every human being has the right to get his day in court, to be able to give his defence, to have access to the fundamental rights, to being treated as equal citizens. The availability of constitutional rights to criminals is a different debate altogether. But denying these rights to people who are engaging in the exchange of a service for money, sounds quite unjustified to me. Moreover, denying legal aid to people forced into selling themselves for money earned by pimps – now that is just ridiculous!

There is an urgent need to put a stop to human trafficking. Stifling the voice of the victims in such a case cannot possibly help. On the contrary, we are merely encouraging the pimps to continue exploiting the women and children – as long as they don’t get caught! (Or if they do, they have enough money to pay off their crimes.) Legalising an industry entitles the authorities to keep a tab on it, regulate it and monitor it. The labour of that industry would automatically be entitled to the constitutional rights, and would be empowered to fight against exploitation.

The Payment of Wages Act 1936, The Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, and The Industrial Disputes Act 1947 – all had been introduced to stop the exploitation of the poor and helpless by the powerful. Why deprive a different section of labourers from their rights? What could possibly be our problem with letting the citizens of our country live a healthy life with dignity and freedom?

If you think it will encourage human trafficking, you’re wrong; in fact, it would empower the victims of human trafficking to seek aid against the criminals. If you believe it will encourage more people to adopt it as a profession, you’re highly mistaken; when the black people were finally granted equal rights, the whole world did not turn black. If you doubt that your boyfriend or husband will avail their services, and you are in a monogamous relationship, what makes you think he won’t do it anyways? I mean, we are talking about Indian youth here; they aren’t exactly following all the laws (visited a bar recently? What’s the legal drinking age again?).

The REAL evil is not prostitution, it is trafficking, exploitation, rapes, child trafficking – all being by-products of the denial of legal aid and human rights to the victims of such crimes. It is time we stop hiding and denying, and find a solution to the pathetic state of millions of women across the country. As Reema Kagti said in her blog, it’s time to attack the real illegalities of the business – the violence accompanying the trade.

About Ashmita Dutta

A student of law and a Chartered Accountant. But that's not who I am, that's what I do. I am a feminist, humanist, atheist, stubborn girl, and above all, a human being. Recently, I have come across my calling in life - bringing law closer to the people. I hope you'll find me suitable for this purpose. Hope to have some interesting discussions and inspire each other to create a better world. If not anything, at least rant. With everything that's going on the world, we sure need to do that too!

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