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Civil society divided over legalisation of prostitution

Pro-LeadLegalising prostitution continued to provoke experts in the Supreme Court appointed panel established to recommend changes in the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA). The experts earlier held lengthy discussions on issues of rehabilitation of workers, loopholes in the act and its impact on the lives of sex workers. The panel is expected to put forward recommendations on the act soon.

However, the war of words has already spilled out on the street after the National Commission for Women Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam advocated legalising sex work to legalize prostitution and ensure better living conditions for women engaged in commercial sex work. According to her if prostitution is legalised then it will bring down illegal trafficking of women and lower the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

While sex workers’ unions have expressed their support for this proposal citing it as a way forward in decriminalizing the trade, as they feel subjugated and exploited by many corners. Mumbai sex workers has also demanded the legalisation of prostitution for their betterment, they say that this is the only way forward for the community that has long been marginalised. This was also the only way to break the unholy nexus between police-trafficker-pimp in exploiting the poor women and girls.

Women rights activist Vibha Satve, has opposed it fervently. They challenge that the move will only push up trade and support incidence of human trafficking. Trafficking and sexual slavery are the worst form of human rights violation. No woman joins this inhuman trade out of choice. More than 95 per cent of the women have been trafficked and forced into sex trade.

“Legalisation of prostitution goes against the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) definition of ‘decent work’ and is considered as selling sex under distress. Instead of criminalising the buying and selling of sex, we are giving more power to those who exploit sex workers and treat them as commodities that can be sold in a market,” Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research said in a statement.

Shayari Ukre (Lawyer with Matru Seva Mandal NGO) told this paper, “If a single person’s act is not much important, but the same can be delivered by such authority or any organisation, it will impact every person. Sex is the most important element in our life in order to run this universe comprising human beings.

“If human sex also becomes a business, who will marry and establish their family? If this demand for legalising prostitution comes from a single persons then awareness can be created amongst him about its impact to our nation and families” she added.

When we spoke to some sex workers this is what they had to say:

chandaChanda from Kamathipura wanted a ban to be imposed on prostitution. She said,“According to me prostitution should be banned. The sex trade in country has painful paths, people who talk about high morals in broad light land up in brothels at dark night. Even if prostitution is legalised then it will pave way for more corruption.”

rekhaRekha supported the legalisation of prostitution and said, “Illegal prostitution leads to an unhealthy way of life and becomes a breeding ground for many diseases as we live and practice in un-hygienic conditions.

“If prostitution is legalised, we will be able to gain respect. Only impediment will be to those who will be entrusted with the task of ensuring that these ladies live a hassle free life. We have to undertake checks and balances to guard against the harassment of these authorities” she further added.

Bijli blamed the film industry for spreading lust and said, “Every country that has legalised sex workers is safer for women who want to roam around freely. Sex workers will sell sex irrespective of it being legal or not. When it comes to us, many debates and discussions are taking place. Just look at Bolly-wood, where there is open selling of bodies in senseless movies with women throwing themselves at men or asking for manhandling promoting lust or phoney love. The film industry is filled with these high paid and high profile prostitutes who are making it unsafe.”

babyBaby said, “Since sex workers exist, men come to us and this makes it safe for the entire female population of half a billion which does not want to be raped or manhandled needlessly. Moreover, if we are allowed to work without police harassment, and the profession is legalised, then social workers can advise women on taking precautions like using condoms. Before granting licence, women should undergo screening for sexually transmitted diseases.”

shanoShano said sex shown in movies is not real and said, “Let’s face it. Nobody truly wants prostitution but biological drives are scientifically proved to be uncontrollable for many. So everyone has a right to satisfy their need, without oppression, or having to go underground and without harassment. In a free country, we sex workers have right to choose what profession we want to be in, just like bollywood actress have a right to strut about half naked even in front of kids watching television. The sex workers do not perform obscene acts in public as the film fraternity does without any qualms. Sex shown openly in movies is NOT at all REAL life. In REAL life, humans have sex in bedrooms BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and not out in the open for everyone to see.”

Akshay Redij

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