By Sakshi Upadhyaya

Edited by Shambhavi Singh

People in do not talk about it, but they do enjoy their share of deeply buried fantasies regarding it. Sex is an inevitable reality constituting integral part of the living, yet Indians aren’t comfortable in discussing it. No matter how much we read, write and learn about modernization, sex is still considered a taboo.

Prostitution and sex work have been a part of our society since times immemorial. Sex work has long been stigmatized in our society. Women in massive numbers are involved in sex work for some reason or the other, be it individual reasons or because of the family conditions. Sex work grabbed attention due to the proposal made by Lalitha Kumarmangalam, chairperson of NCW on legalizing sex work. She gave an assurance to put forward the proposal in front of the Supreme Court- constituted panel. In the absence of regulation, she said, sex workers were forced to serve the clients in unhygienic and unhealthy conditions without using contraceptives.

The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, DMSC, a collective of about 65000 sex workers in West Bengal, offered its support to Lalitha Kumarmangalam, backing up her initiative. The DMSC said that legalization of sex work would allow the workers and their families to lead a life of dignity. Decriminalization would be instrumental in establishing a distinction between sex work and trafficking.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act directly or indirectly criminalizes sex work. What these workers really want is the removal of the tag of a criminal, giving them freedom to move about and do their work.  The argument is that sex work is a simple plain work, it isn’t immoral or harmful to the women, and also it doesn’t degrade the society. Sex work can allow humans to explore their sexual desires in a way they openly cannot due to the current laws on heterosexual, monogamous relationships.

This industry and its workers need not be chastised by the utopian and puritan ideals of what is moral and what is not. And who decides the morality of things? Morality should be objective and society’s views on what is right and what is not undergoes constant fluctuations. Since sex work in a country like India is considered illegal largely on the basis of moral grounds, then its stance should be checked again. Every human has the right to make self- conscious decisions about his or her own body. If it is the matter of shame and disrespect, then before choosing this work, these people must have considered all such possibilities. Whether it is the fear of getting their identities revealed or for their families to face the moment of truth, they are aware of the grave consequences their choice brings along with it. But above all, what they fear the most is the lurking danger of police’s intervention and the ramifications they would have to face thereafter.

On the contrary, in a country like ours, accepting this reality openly wouldn’t come that easily. People here are bound by the strange yet strict laws that govern the society, which condemn sex work. First refutation would also be that there is no correlation between legal state of sex work and the prevalence of HIV in the country. But it would definitely give them some sort of security as sex work would be recognized as a job by the government and the corresponding incomes and taxation would be authorized as well. Thus, it would be a huge leap in the beliefs of the people and their perceptions about sex workers. Although it is a very subjective and immensely debatable topic, it might sink in for some and for others the whole concept might turn out to be outrageously absurd. At the end, it is the fight for freedom and respect for the choices that people make for themselves.

Sakshi is a pre final year student pursuing mechanical engineering from RKGIT, Ghaziabad. Passionate about sports like badminton and tennis, she is an ardent reader and dreams of building up her personal library. She firmly believes that the pen is the mighty sword that can instigate social reformations.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind