By Ajay Jaiswal
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Welcome to India, where there is a thin line of difference between immoral and illegal. Prostitution may be considered ‘immoral’ in India, although its business is flourishing in our country.
Wikipedia defines prostitution as “the business or practice of engaging in sexual relations in exchange for payment or some other benefit. Prostitution is sometimes described as commercial sex”.
The legal status of prostitution varies from country to country. In India for instance, brothels are illegal. But currently, talks are going on for the legalisation of both brothels as well as prostitution. So there is an active debate going on regarding this topic.
The Global Scenario
The global scenario is very different from India.
Prostitution is legal in many countries like Canada, France, Wales, Denmark, and even parts of Asia. Australia even has a sex-service company, whose stocks are actively traded in the stock market!
And these countries are also more developed than India.
The Pros of Legalisation
Recognizing prostitution as a profession will at least reduce the illegality that comes with it, like child-prostitution and drug abuse. It is true that no government has been successful in shutting down the prostitution business completely, and now it seems that the chance of elimination is close to nil.
One argument in favour of legalising prostitution in India is that it will improve the living standards of the sex workers. Currently, they live in an unhealthy and unhygienic condition in brothels and receive a meagre amount as remuneration. Legalising the trade will also reduce trafficking of women and lower the incidence of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
Moreover, after the legalisation, the oppressed workers can file a reports and complaints against their ‘supervisors’, which is not possible in the current scenario. The women, thus, couldn’t be forced to enter the business. It may help in reducing the cases of violence and abuse.
The legalisation procedure will at least give the sex workers some dignity, preventing them from living as second grade citizens.
It may also reduce the incidence of rape cases, which is increasing day by day.
The Cons of Legalisation
Every coin has two sides. The same applies here too.
The opponents of Legalisation say that prostitution is not a profession, rather an ‘oppression’. It is against our so-called ‘morals’ of the society. Moreover, India shouldn’t compare itself with the western countries, as our ideology is different (or say more orthodox).
It is also a fact that if this business is legalised, the biggest beneficiaries will be the people who manage this business. In India, where women are forcefully kept as bonded labour, this move will hardly matter. The legalisation won’t regulate the sex industry, it will only lead to its expansion.
The cases of Human Trafficking can also be solved only when prostitution is abolished from our country. Most of the women engaged in this business are the victims of poverty. So the ‘pimps’ of the business trick women into this lifestyle.
Moreover, Prostitution affects marriages and relationships also. It affects ‘family life’ and leads to the spread of communicable diseases.
Although in the ancient and medieval era, prostitution was widespread, but today the scenario has totally changed. Today, women have more power and a greater freedom of choice.
The conclusion of the debate is still not clear. But one thing is for sure: something has to be done as soon as possible. There is a strong need to treat the sex industry as just another professional industry, and empower the workers with legal safeguards, which would improve the present conditions of the workers. It is high time for the government to take appropriate steps. And indeed Legalisation is a good start in this direction.
Ajay Jaiswal is currently in his second year at college, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics (Hons) at Sri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. Originally from Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand. He is aspiring to be an IAS officer in the future. His interests lie in the area of Mathematics, Indian Economy and Global markets. He spends his time watching movies or reading. You can email him at [email protected]