Notes on the Causes of Prostitution, Trade of Bodies and Women’s Plight

  • 8

Sajad Farooq Rather

A prostitute is a person who is legally defined as one “who allows her body to be used for lewd purposes in return for payment”. Prostitution is the sale of sexual services for money. The very word itself speaks about the plight of women and the universality of this issue is no secret as it isn’t just India but throughout the world prostitution has become a profession either out of choice or compulsion.
Prostitution was a part of daily life in ancient Greece and is technically illegal but widely practiced in India today. By one count, it is an $8 billion a year industry with more than two million prostitutes and 275,000 brothels. In another count in all of India, there are as many as 10 million commercial sex workers and their core clientele has traditionally been truck drivers, migrant workers and other men separated from their families for long periods of time.
Many teenage girls turn to prostitution to raise money for their families or out of need for money to deal with a debt or a problem related to their husbands. One survey found that a third of all prostitutes enter the trade because of poverty and more than a forth become prostitutes after marital problems. Prostitution continued from ancient and medieval India and has taken a more gigantic outlook in modern India; the devadasi system still continues ,according to a report of National Human Rights Commission of the Government of India,” after initiation as devadasis, women migrate either to nearby towns or other far-off cities to practice prostitution”.
Compared to last century, today prostitution in India has flourished into a full-fledged multibillion dollar industry alone, with around two hundred thousand brothels, millions of commercial sex workers and this all just for sake of money. “Most of these women were either forced by gang members and others to take up this profession or were betrayed with false promises of a job. Both the central government and the state governments have enacted statutes to repress and abolish prostitution.
By some estimates child prostitution in India is a multi-billion dollar industry. India may have half a million children in brothels, more than any other country in the world. Many are barely in their teens. A shocking number have HIV or AIDS. No children enter the prostitution trade on their free will. Some are runaways or victims of abuse. Other have been sold by their parents, abducted or enticed by gifts. Between 5,000 and 7,000 young girls are brought from Nepal to India to become prostitutes every year. Children are also brought in from Bangladesh. According to human rights groups, about 90 percent of the Bombay prostitutes are indentured servants, with close to half trafficked from Nepal. Where does India stand in terms of Prostitution?
Prostitution itself is not illegal in India, but soliciting and public prostitution is illegal. Owning a brothel is also against the law, but, as places like GB Road and Kamathipura prove, these laws are rarely enforced. Prostitutes suffer from moral collapse and lose their status and position which other respectable men and women enjoy in society. Respectable people hate them, avoid their company and want to isolate them in society. As a result, the pimp and the prostitute become ‘hated and isolated islands’. They lead a life with their own definition of promiscuous sex conduct and a life with their own definitions of promiscuous sex conduct and immoral principle. This will be quite different from the society’s conception of morality.
Causes of prostitution:
Ill treatment by parents, bad company, family issues, social customs. inability to arrange marriage, lack of sex education, prior incest and rape early marriage and desertion, lack of recreational facilities, ignorance, and acceptance of prostitution are among the common causes of this blight Economic causes include poverty and economic distress. Psychological causes include desire for physical pleasure, greed, and dejection. And although many laws have been made to protect them but few are implemented. In a society where economics and hunger drive decisions, the girl child becomes a dispensable commodity.
Girls and women are forced to take up this profession because of extreme poverty. Hence training and education should be provided to them. Imparting education, training and skills will increase the employability of women in job market. Economic empowerment can prevent the poor women from entering this degraded profession. The present younger generation has a free access to the Internet. Over this medium, there are many sites are there that are capable of bringing down the moral standards among youngsters; hence, parents should be cautious about the internet habits of their children.
Widow Remarriage should be encouraged. The system of dowry which debarred many girls from getting married should be discouraged wholeheartedly in practice. There is an urgent need to change the society’s attitude towards the widow marriage, dowry and devadasi. Central and state governments through social welfare Boards should prepare schemes for rehabilitation all over the country for physically and sexually abused women commonly known as the “Prostitutes” as we are of the view that the prostitutes also have a right to live with dignity and they are also human beings whose problems also need to be addressed. As already observed, a woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not for mere pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted opportunity to avail some technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body.

— The author, a law student and a legal intern at the Supreme Court of India, can be reached at: