Legislation and Regulation of Prostitution in India: Rights and Legal protection of the sex workers
Prostitution is nothing but sale of sexual services like oral sex or sexual intercourse, for some pay which is usually in money. A prostitute is a person who allows her body to be used for lewd purposes in return for payment. Prostitution itself speaks about the plight of women. It is not a problem that exists in India only but throughout the world.
Is prostitution legal in India?
Prostitution is illegal in India. The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956 (“ITPA”), the main statute dealing with sex work in India, does not criminalize prostitution or prostitutes per se, but mostly punishes acts by third parties facilitating prostitution like living off earnings, brothel keeping, and procuring. Section3 provides punishment for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel.
- Any person who keeps or manages, or acts or assists in the keeping or management of, a brothel,
- A any person who, –
- Being the lessee, occupier, tenant, or person in charge of any premises, uses, or knowingly allows any other person to use, such premises or any part thereof as a brothel, or
- Being the owner or lessor or landlord of any premises or the agent of such owner, lessor or landlord, lets the same or any part thereof with the knowledge that the same or any part thereof is intended to be used as a brothel, or is willfully a party to the use of such premises or any part thereof as a brothel.
Laws against prostitution:
- Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act -1956
- Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act-1956
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act-1956
Legal rights and Protection of the sex workers in India:
- In the present state of affairs the laws that regulate prostitution in India is Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956 (this was before amendment known as Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act, 1956).
- It is the main statute dealing with prostitutes in India.
- One of the major protection that it gives to prostitute workers is:
- it does not criminalise prostitution per se,
- it punishes the acts of third parties such as middle men, brothel keepers, pimps, etc. who either facilitate this entire act or procure and live on the earnings of the prostitute workers.
- Since involvement in this sex trade makes the sex workers highly vulnerable to exploitation, hence the latter category of protection is held in a very high regard by the lawmakers.
- In furtherance to same-sex workers cannot solicit in public spheres but can practice their trade privately.
- In private spaces neither the workers nor the clients are held criminally liable or prosecuted.
Recent Uprisings and Famous Cases:
2014, All India Network of Sex Workers:
On March 10, 2014, the All India Network of Sex Workers representing 90 sex worker organisations across 16 Indian states campaigned for pension rights. It presented a letter explaining that sex workers in India are not treated equally in social security terms. A spokesperson for the Network told the media that sex workers in India retire by the age of 40-45 years, much earlier than the broader population.
2011, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC)
On 4th May, 2011, the Supreme Court impleaded Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a sex worker’s organization and its affiliate, Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society (USHA) from Kolkata, as parties to the case and sought their views on the subject of rehabilitation of sex workers.
Gaurav jain v. Union of India
The apex court in this infamous case of Gaurav jain v. Union of India issued directions for the upliftment of prostitutes and establishment of the juvenile home for the children’s of prostitutes so as to provide them social security which is one of their right as a human being.
Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal
Where the accused was convicted for murdering a sex worker in Calcutta in 1999 SC dismissed the appeal and affirming the conviction in February, 2011and converted the appeal into public interest litigation a on the rehabilitation of sex workers. Accordingly, the Supreme Court directed the Central Government and all the State Governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers in all cities in India.