The Supreme Court (SC) of India recently suggested legalizing prostitution as a solution to the reality that, despite a raft of law, there is a rapid proliferation of the sex trade. The apex court, presided by a two-judge bench, said no legislation anywhere in the world had successfully managed to stop the sex trade, and legalizing it would allow authorities to “monitor the trade, rehabilitate and provide medical aid to those involved”.

Legalising prostitution

Legalizing Prostitution in India

The chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Lalitha Kumaramangalam, has also advocated legalising sex work to regulate the trade and ensure better living conditions for women engaged in commercial sex work. Legalising the trade, she says, will also bring down trafficking in women and lower the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The Mixed Response

This suggestion, however, has received a mixed response from activists working with sex workers in India. While those like Dr. S. Jana, the man behind the formation of 65,000-strong sex workers’ forum, the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) have welcomed it, others fear that such a move would only encourage traffickers and the prostitution mafia.

Supreme Court lawyer and president of NGO Shakti Vahini Ravi Kant not only demanded an end to the profession, but also strict punishment for those who force women into the trade.

“The sad part is that in spite of the various recommendations from the Supreme Court, no genuine efforts have been made by any government to see that this social malice is eradicated,” he said.

Present Regulations

In India, the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA) is the only piece of legislation dealing with the crime of trafficking but it only considers trafficking as prostitution and is not in accordance with International Policies and Guidelines, including the Palermo Protocol of 2001, which India has signed. This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs because Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits “traffic in human beings and all similar forms of forced labor”.

Status in Other Countries

Prostitution is legal with some restrictions in Canada, almost all of Europe including England, France, Wales and Denmark, most of South America including most of Mexico (often in special zones), Brazil, Israel (Tel Aviv is known as the brothel capital of the world), Australia, and many other countries. It is either legal or tolerated in most of Asia. Even Iran has “temporary wives”, which can be for only a few hours. In 2003, New Zealand passed one of the most comprehensive decriminalization acts, which even made street hookers legal.

To Conclude

Legalisation of sex trade,if properly regulated,will help in wedding out middlemen and brothel owners who exploit the women.The legislation should cover working hours, remuneration and health care of sex workers, education and economic alternatives for their families.

Team Aspirant Forum


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