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Looking Beyond Taboos – Should Prostitution be legalized?

  • IWB Post
  •  December 5, 2014


Do prostitutes have any rights of their own? Prostitution is still a subject which is always discussed in a very hush hush way in our country. On the wake of the ongoing debate on whether prostitution should be legalized, let us first understand that what we mean by legalization of the sex trade.

Prostitution is often regarded as the world’s oldest profession and is rampant in every country of the world. It is now being debated that like every other job, in prostitution too the sex workers be given their rights which on being violated they can move to the court of law.

Everywhere the same story of violence

Violence is a common phenomenon in sex trade. The women are often exploited and physically abused by their clients who take advantage of the fact that they cannot go to the police station to lodge a complaint because of the illegality associated with prostitution. In many cases the abusers and molesters are uniformed police personnel who pressurize the sex workers by demanding hefty bribes and also threaten them to give in to their demands or be arrested. As there is no legal rights available to sex workers in the country, a large chunk of them end up being severely exploited, many of whom are minors under the age of 18 years. It is being speculated that if prostitution is legalized then the rate of violence will drastically fall down because it would facilitate legal action against the perpetrators.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

The danger that the various sexually transmitted diseases like HIV AIDS and Syphilis present is very serious matter of concern in contemporary world. In most cases it is being seen that the majority of the people contract them have very little or no awareness about safe sex.  Very few people pay heed to the fact that the refusal of a client to wear a condom can result in grave consequences for both the sex worker and her customer. In the current scenario since there is no robust law, people living in the red light areas mostly have to deal with people who take advantage of this lack of legality and force them to have unsafe sex which in turn increases the risk of (STD).

Minors in the Sex Trade


Another advantage of this move will be that with the legalization of prostitution there will be an age limit, which will act as a safeguard against forcibly indulging minors in the sex trade by brothel owners and brokers.


Opposing Voices

However since there is always two sides of a coin, there is no dearth of people opposing this move of legalizing prostitution in India. The main arguments of the critics are that as a direct result of legalizing prostitution, there will be a rise in the sex trade along with an increase in human trafficking because there will always be some loopholes in the law . It is found that in many Indian villages underage children are often sold by their poverty stricken families and brought into the dark world of flesh trade and exploitation. People opposing the legalization often say that when prostitution is established as an occupation legally then the many middlemen and brokers will also profit from it. They believe if legal rights are being available to sex workers then many women from poor families will choose prostitution as an occupation in order to survive.

Countries where prostitution is legal

Germany, Netherlands and New Zealand are among the few countries where prostitution has been legalized. The results could be termed as mixed. On one hand this move has ensured in more awareness among people and has also given the large chunk of people working in brothels specific rights and also the option to register themselves for benefit schemes implemented by the government for sex workers. On the other hand however, the flesh trade has seen some very good business with the help of posh sex clubs and five star brothels attracting both sex workers and customer even from foreign countries.

JWB Take

We understand that this is an extremely sensitive matter which needs to be addressed only through building up consensus and debate. We however believe that given the current sorry state of the people working in the sex industry, in India there is a very realistic need for a law which addresses all these issues. It is true that prostitution can be phased out only through improvement of living conditions and financial empowerment of the poor but right now there is a dire need to open some kind of a legal avenue for the sex workers to put a stop to their exploitation and to let them know about their rights in the eyes of law.

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