By Brinda Sapra,

“Oh my God! She is dating two guys at the same time! What a S-L-U-T!” This is not an uncommon reaction amongst teenage high school kids.  Before I get started with my agenda, some food for thought – when a guy is double dating, he is apparently a Playboy, (which has the most ‘Masculine’ and charming connotation attached to it) but when a girl does it, the whole world sings in chorus – WHORE! Now the crux of the matter is slightly different from what I have implied in the previous line. When we want to insult someone’s loyalty or mock someone in romantic matters, the most convenient retort is to label them as a slut, a whore or a prostitute. Whereas if a CIA operative engages in sexual intercourse or uses seduction as a technique to extract information from a client, the same “sluttish” act would be considered professional. In fact, when a celebrity has to enact intimate scenes for a movie, s/he wins accolades for their performances. Isn’t this a brilliant paradox? My primary concern is, why the profession of prostitution is considered disgraceful.

It is high time we start introspecting as to why some of us have branded the job of a sex worker as obnoxious and derogatory. Why do we look down upon these women who wish to support their families financially?

In India, apparently prostitution itself is legal, but organised prostitution, i.e. brothel-keeping, using services of pimps and madams to publicise the services of sex workers is considered illegal. Organised prostitution has been criminalised to dissuade women from engaging in this profession and more so to discourage human trafficking. However, the intention behind making prostitution an illegal activity has been completely defeated because sex workers who voluntarily opt for this profession, under any given circumstances, are unable to reach out to a wider public due to such legal restrictions. Research conducted by Sanlaap, indicates that most of the women who are involved in prostitution (mostly concentrated in Mumbai and Calcutta), opt for it out of necessity and not desire. They are usually devoid of financial resources to support themselves or their children after the breakup of a marriage or after being disowned and thrown out of their homes. So the whole idea behind criminalising prostitution works to the disadvantage of these sex workers and renders them helpless!

In fact, if prostitution is legalised, then these brothels would have to register with the government. The whole agreement between the employee (sex worker) and the employer can be made into a formal contract. One of the clauses could guarantee the freedom of the employee to leave the trade as per her will, thereby covering the loophole of being coerced into this profession. Identity of the employees could be concealed with serial numbers (replacing her name) in order to maintain confidentiality. The government could demand a statement of willingness of the sex worker to enter the business of prostitution, again omitting the question of trafficking. Also, legalising the trade would give the government an opportunity to curb the spreading of AIDS virus, a sexually transmitted disease, by ensuring the use of protection. The point about human trafficking and being coerced into this trade cannot be refuted because that, however, becomes a question of naïve people being duped by agents, but as soon as the trade of prostitution becomes legal then it would become easier for the authorities to liberate the helpless from this trade. Legalising this trade would enable the government to monitor the activities of this profession. In contrast, engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money, which is the last resort for some to make their ends meet, is not only being condemned, but also outlawed, which kills their last ray of hope for survival.

And as if these restrictions by respective authorities were not enough to obstruct the livelihood of sex workers, we have our society to add to the problems through their very typical ways- stereotypes, of course! Hindi cinema, for instance, depicts prostitution as an immoral and an intoxicating act. As much as these films may ‘claim’ to merely reflect a popular attitude of the society towards sex workers, they are also responsible for propagating this very attitude through their films. Why do we, as adults, have to adopt the same loathsome attitude towards prostitutes that the so-called society is trying to enforce upon us! We have been living in an inertia of the opinions that the fundamentalists have imposed on us, the attitude that regards prostitution as a symbol of being contaminated by the germ of sex and pleasure. I am repeatedly urging you to resist this bandwagon effect! There is no good or bad in this profession. It arises out of a necessity to earn a living, at least in India. We can adopt a more forward attitude and a more empathetic one too, instead of becoming pawns in the hands of the conservatives! Otherwise we all are just, whether we like to admit it or not, old wine in a new bottle, with hypocrisy of ‘progress’ at its epitome. There is more to “development” than quantitative figures of our GDP.

We cannot expect the world to change unless we are the change.


Brinda Saprais a first year student pursuing BA Economics honours at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. She takes keen interest in watching movies ranging from genres like Science fiction to Romantic comedies. She enjoys reading books with a gripping plot. She tries to keep herself updated with the world affairs, be it political or economic. She enjoys writing poems and reading inspirational ones because that is what keeps her going through tough times. She respects her teachers -not just from school and college but also her mentors from the field of performing arts like dance and theatre. Her motto in life being, hard working people can take on a tough journey just as well as the ‘talented and gifted’ ones.

Edited by Nandita Singh

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind