Legality of Prostitution in India: Right to work or violation of women.

This article has been written by Barkha, from JEMTEC School of Law.


Prostitution is the promotion of sexual act in the exchange of money. It is commercialization of sex i.e. asking for money in the exchange of sex.This trade of vicecrime is prevailing in nearly each part of the planet. It is being practiced from ancient period. This trade has degraded the status of women inthesociety.  In several places, girls are simply used as associate object to satisfy sexual desires of men.In numerouscountries, women are forced into this trade and are being exploited. In some countries it is legal whereas in some countries it is still considered to be a taboo. In India, it is a general misconception that prostitution is illegal but it is actually legal but some acts related to prostitution are declared to be illegal. Although prostitution is legal in India but it is considered to be immoral. Prostitution in India is resulting in human and child trafficking and exploitation against women. Women from poor and backward families are facing violence.Hence, involvement of women in this trade is abasing them.


“Prostitution is one of the oldest professions of the world practiced since the birth of the organized society.” [1]It is practiced in almost every part of the world. In India, it is prevalent from very ancient times. Even in the time of kings, women called as ‘dasees/ tawaifs’ used to be involved in this trade.Women from the very starting are used to satisfy sexual needs of men. Even in historical texts like ‘Manusmriti’it is mentioned that, women’s existence in the society is just to fulfill the sexual needs of men.“It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason, the wise are never unguarded in the company of females.”[2]It is clear from the above statement how this patriarchal societyhad perception about women and it is still being continued. They considered the sole purpose of existence of women in thisworld is to satisfy men sexually. From the establishment of society men are taught to be strong whereas women are taught to focus on beauty and to seduce man and be submissive. Even in purans there are many instances that justify the saying that it is one of the oldest professions.” Puranas have laid down that women who shared her couch with two men was called Kulata, with three was a Darshini, with four was Pungaschalea and with five was called veshya. The women who gave herself to people more than five in number was known as mahaveshya.”[3] Even in the old sculptures women have been objectified and the sexual act of man and woman are shown. In many paintings it is depicted that women used to dance in front of the king and hisministers to entertain and seduce them. Even it is given in Rig Veda that there was a tradition that kings give the present of slave women to rishi/munis.[4]In the period of devas, the chief deva ‘Indra’ is depicted enjoying the company of women with alcohol in one hand. It was prevalent in mughal period as well.Dasis who were sex workers in the kings’ palace, held the highest post among all prostitutes, and had highest fees. Even kings used to maintain and keep prostitutes in their houses. “Thus, she was reduced from human person to just bodies, for male utility.”[5] This evil has been prevalent around the globe, from the beginning and is still practiced.

Strategy Followed Around the Globe

There are three systems used across the globe to deal with sex work i.e. suppression, regulation and abolition.[6]Firstly, Suppression(criminalization), it means to prohibit it completely i.e.declaring prostitution to be a crime.Any act related to prostitution will be considered as crime, and any individual practicing it could be booked for the same. Any party such as pimps, brokers, traffickers, managers, including the prostitutes and the clients would be arrested and punished. Secondly, Regularisation(Legalisation), it means to declare prostitution to be legal and can be practiced without any fear. Legalisation will help in the protection of prostitutes. It includes direct intervention of government in acts like, registration and maintenance of brothels, and medical check up of prostitutes as well. Legalisation will enable to government to successfully stop exploitation against these sex- workers, but for the achievement of such goal there is requirement of effective policies and proper implementation of laws. Failure of government in maintaining brothels and providing aid to sex workers will worsen the situation. Hence, proper implementation is crucial. Thirdly, Abolition (Toleration), it refers to a system where all the laws framed against prostitution are abolished. “The abolitionist approach calls for the elimination of laws against prostitution itself.”[7] In this system neither the sex worker nor the client is punished for service in private but soliciting in public places, keeping brothel etc. is a crime.

India’s Policy

As discussed above, it is a general misconception that prostitution in India is illegal, rather prostitution is legal but pimping, owning and managing a brothel is illegal.[8] Laws related to prostitution are given in immoral trafficking(prevention) act, 1956.India is the house of Asia’s largest red-light district which indicates that implementation of laws is not strong in India.


As discussed above, practice of prostitution is prevalent in almost every part of the world. As this exists in almost every country, different countries have different ways to deal with it. Many countries have legalized it. Prostitutes and other party related to it can not be punished, and everything will be handled by the government. But here the question arises does legalization of prostitution in various countries pave a way for it to get legalized in India.

In my point of view, legalization of prostitution in various countries can not pave way for the legalization of the same in India. As already discussed above, in order to make prostitution legal, there will be requirement of providing all the brothel and other related services in the hands of the government. And for the proper operation of the same there shall be proper implementation of laws. A country like India, lacks effective implementation of laws and the law maintenance system is so weak hence, can lead to the worsening of the situation.

Legalization of prostitution in India will result into more crimes. Child trafficking, women trafficking will also increase more. making acts related to prostitution legal with improper law implementation will make the offenders fearless. Exploitation of women will rise.The tendency of poor families to sell their wife, daughters and sisters will increase. It will come out to be an easy way for families to earn money using the females of their house. Government should make laws stronger for the protection of women from trafficking, and their forceful involvement in this trade of prostitution. And even prostitution will lead to many health problems like HIV, STDs etc.

Legalization of prostitution in no way will move towards the development of the country. Rather government should take steps for the empowerment of women and contribute for their education so that women could earn money and respect.

[1]Dr. Smt. S. R. Sarode, Historical Study of Prostitution Trade in India: Past and Present.

[2] 3, 2020, 22:00).

[3] (April 4, 2020, 13:15).

[4]Id. At 3.

[5]Dr. Singh, Brothel Prostitution in India, 3 (2004).

[6] (April 6, 2020, 21:41).

[7]Id. At 6.

[8] (April 6, 2020, 22:43).