Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Should prostitution be made legal?


We all know that India has an oldest past of prostitution in the world. It was started by the kings and at that time they were called “nagar vadhu”. They exist even today and now they are called prostitutes or sex workers. The question is should their work be legalized or not.
Sonagachi in Kolkata and Malishahi in Orissa are quite famous red light areas. According to reputed English daily there were more than 10, 0000 sex workers, in the year 1990, in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi. The major reason for women to join this field is poverty and lack of money. Other reasons being family dispute, trafficking, rape etc. Once they enter it becomes difficult and almost impossible for them to get out of that cobweb. In fact, finding no way out they actually start compromising in that situation and in the later stage they help in bringing more girls to this profession.
If we neglect the morality issue, the sex workers are doing nothing wrong. They are simply earning their livelihood. Obviously no woman willingly comes to this field. As they cannot find a way to earn they get into this business. For the survival purpose they start selling themselves. They give service for which they earn money, a means for surviving. It might be surprising to know that, though they come here for money, they are deprived of money. Their money is handled by the pimps and dalals. For a client they get Rs 8. (as told by a sex worker of Sonagachi in her interview. ) also they can earn till the age of 30 only, after that either they marry the pimps and get involved in this business or they buy a room and rent it to other prostitutes, or start selling betel leaves or cigarette in that red light area.
Just like any other work their work should also get recognition in the eyes of law. In India, the prostitution work is illegal. The sex workers face many problems. They can’t hold a bank account, can’t buy any property or a hospital card for checkups. Why? Literally they are a non-entity for the administration. Society neglects them. Ironically our society never neglects or looks down upon men who pay their visit to them. ( May be because we live in a patriarchal society).
Health happens to be one of the concerns. If this work is legalized they can have property, bank account, and can even file complaints against the harassment. The child prostitutions will get a hold. The workers would be provided a proper medication. At present maximum of them are suffering from AIDS. The NGOs provide them condoms but they are not able to control the increase in HIV positive cases. So if this work is made legal they would get a proper health facility, pimps will be curbed, trafficking will be controlled and the most important the child prostitution will stop.
But the question is will legalizing stop the flourishment of this business. No, what I think is “prostitution breeds prostitution”. Legalizing will not help. Even if it is legalized the social construct will not accept them. We may provide them rights (as we are in a democratic state it is unfair not to give them equal rights.) but we cannot change people’s perception nor can we ask society to give them respect as it becomes a personal matter whom to respect and whom to not. Secondly, even if it is legalized there is no guarantee that the clients will use condoms. As that interview red, though they are provided condoms manyatimes the clients refuse to use it and since they have to earn they agree. So there will be no curb on AIDS.
As far as owning a property is concerned they would not get out of that place or of that business. There is a place called Sukha, in Madhya Pradesh (few kilometers away from Sagar). It is a red light village. Each and every member of this village is involved in this business. Fathers, husbands and brothers get the client for the females in their house. The government under the Indra Awaas Yojna has allotted all of them a house to live. Shockingly they have rented them for the purpose of prostitution. The land given to them for farming have been sold out and alcoholic drinks were brought out. This means that they don’t want to get out of that business (Off course we cannot generalize). So legalizing their business will, instead of eradicating, make it more intense.
Thirdly, why cannot we teach those, who want to get out of that hell, how to make candles, handicraft works, pappad making or pickles etc. We can also educate them. If government can provide houses and lands for farming they can obviously provide funds for this noble cause. Also the NGOs fighting for their legalization can also help them by educating them and by making them learn.
Though it might sound little rude but in order to give them social respect (which we are not going to achieve in the near future) we cannot legalise the work and hence leave the business to grow like a quagmire.

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