THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY K. LAKSHMI A STUDENT OF M. S. RAMAIAH COLLEGE OF LAW, BANGALORE
Prostitution is defined as an act or practice of offering oneself for hire to engage in sexual activity with another.In India , prostitution is not illegal per se but activities related to it such as owing or managing a brothel, soliciting in a public place, pimping , pandering etc are considered to be crimes. Prostitution is legal only if it is carried out privately. These above said activities play an integral part in prostitution itself and outlawing them indirectly makes prostitution illegal.
The Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act, 1956 also called as SITA deals with the laws with regard to the sex workers. It states that prostitutes cannot carry on their business publicly or in open and they are only allowed to pursue their trade in private. However, SITA was hardly used. Ordinarily charges were brought against the accused under different sections of IPC or were otherwise made liable for public nuisance. The main problem was that there was no clear cut definition of the various crimes and it was left to be defined by the officials who bring about charges against them. But however now, SITA has been amended and is replaced by Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act otherwise known as ITPA or PITA.
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986 was introduced solely to abolish prostitution in India by cautiously criminalising various aspects related to sex work. Some of the main point’s are-
Firstly, a prostitute who solicits in public shall be prosecuted and similarly, call girls cannot publish their phone numbers and if they are caught doing so then they will be imprisoned up to 6 months with fine.
Secondly, a client if engages in a sexual activity within 200 yards of public place will be made guilty and charged with imprisonment up to 3 months.
Thirdly, a client is charged with imprisonment up to 7 to 10 years if he is involved in sex acts with a sex worker below the age of 18.
Fourthly, the act prohibits prostitution at a hotel and also made the act of maintaining a brothel illegal and detaining a person at a brother for sexual exploitation is an offence for which they can be prosecuted.
ITPA also mentioned that the Government is obliged to provide rescue and rehabilitation for any sex worker who requests for assistance.
On November 8, 2014, a proposal to legalize the very act of prostitution in India was put before the Supreme Court. Public Interest Litigation was filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan who mainly is in favor for curbing child trafficking. So with this regard, a panel was set up in 2010 seeking a curb on large scale child trafficking. A Supreme Court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice AK Patnaik asked the Solicitor General: “When you say it is the world’s oldest profession and when you are not able to curb it by laws, why don’t you legalize it?”
The panel, so constituted, will deal with the provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) and make sure that the sex workers in according with article 21 of the Constitution get to live a respectful life with dignity. Various loopholes, implementation of such laws and impact of them on the sex workers will be given due regard and taken care of as said by Lalitha Kumaramangalam , the chairperson of the National Commission for Women.
This has brought about a mixed response and gave rise to debates where a handful of people were in support of legalising prostitution and rest of them strongly opposed the same.
ARGUMENTS FOR LEGALISATION
In my opinion, one of the main merits for legalisation of prostitution are that the Government and other authorities can monitor to make sure that people are not forced into this business and they only take it up by choice. Legalising would bring about better working conditions and better wages for the sex workers by eliminating middle men such as pimps. By regulating the laws with regard to prostitution, it will by great deal help to reduce child trafficking and slowly curb it once for all. It will also help to keep a tab on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV by providing safety guidelines. Sex workers can also be provided with rehabilitation centres and medical aid in case if required. Legalising prostitution will also protect the sex workers from persecution by police officials, pimps etc. Various studies also show that prostitution can reduce rape and sexual violence to a large extent. Government has given so many benefits to women which don’t extend to sex workers. Legalising prostitution will make it as a profession so these benefits will be extended to sex workers as well. This will further generate income as sex workers will be Liable to pay tax and it would also enable the government to utilise that money back into the profession and this will also help in protecting the rights of the sex workers and thus helping them live a life with respect and dignity.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST LEGALISATION
Legalisation of prostitution will lead to legalising and acceptance of the very concept of sale of women’s body. This will degrade the status of women. The poor and illiterate families and slum areas which still form a large part on India treat girl child as a big responsibility and burden on them and legalising prostitution will make such families push women into it as its easy money. Those against legalisation feel that only brother owners and pimps will benefit and women will continue to get exploited.
As of 2014, 15 Countries have legalised prostitution and some of them are Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, Venezuela etc. In fact, prostitutes pay taxes like any other citizen of the State, in the Netherlands. So many activist groups in India are also in support of legalisation of prostitution. Like any other profession, if prostitution is also made as one then the stigma on this profession can be removed and they can also be made liable to pay taxes like any other working citizen and get to live their life with dignity.