Should Prostitution be legalized in India?

July 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm 26 comments

In a reply by the Govt to a RTI application (report published in The Times of India) it was revealed that there are approx 6.8 lakh sex workers in our country and Delhi is the red-light capital of India.

Flesh trade is thriving in India; this is obvious from the high number of sex workers in out country. Besides a handful of NGOs the Govt. does negligible work for the rehabilitation of those who are forced into prostitution.

My aunt used to run a pathological lab near GB Pant hospital, Delhi’s red light area, she would often get patients who came in groups (periodically) for HIV tests and would give pseudo personal details for obvious reasons.

So far the illegal tag attached with the profession has not helped in anyway. The Govt. doesn’t even have any confirmed statistics or data to know the number of sex workers in India.

8 yrs ago I participated in a debate at the Delhi School of Social Work, topic ‘Should Prostitution be legalized in India’?

My argument remains unchanged- Yes, it should be!

What if it is legalized?

  • The workers will (slowly) come forward in registering with the Govt about their status. The message can be communicated through NGOs.
  • These workers can be offered periodical check-ups for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases- which in long run may help in controlling the disease
  • Those who are trapped in this profession can be rehabilitated
  • Mafias who are into selling young girls/boys will come under a scanner.
  • Children of these sex workers will get access to education, healthcare and other primary facilities.

Red light areas are marked out in most cities, we know they exist and the number is lakhs. HIV/AIDS/ TB and other contagious diseases are on rise and their hidden identities are one of the obvious causes for it.

PS:  After dusk every day a young girl used to frequent the lanes of a residential colony close to GB Pant. She obviously seemed to be a ‘shady character’ to the residents so they decided to report it to the area police station. Off record the inspector on duty confided in one of the sr. member of the society that this matter should be ignored as she was a sex worker and was sent over to please the police-wallas. So what should I call it?

‘Exploitation of an illegal sex worker by those who enforce law in the society?

You may also like to read a post by Patty on this subject…titled: Red Light District


Entry filed under: Me & Media.

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26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Prateek  |  July 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Brilliant article, Pal. And I too am for it. We are doing more wrong by looking away. Even the sex workers and their kids are human and deserve all rights.

    Thank you for giving a reference to/sending a trackback to one of my articles.

  • 2. Karan Agrawal  |  July 26, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    A very debatable topic…bold views and I got to think constructive after a bit long time… Nice reasoning and points put forward.
    However, I completely disagree with you.

    India is a developing country. Poverty is one issue government is not able to arrest from years. There is no concrete number as to how many people in India lives below poverty line, but approx. 30% struggle BPL.

    In such senario, by legalising, you would be encouraging people from this section to take shortcut and make money. Legalising would not help solve the problem even a bit.
    How do we know that 6.2lakh people are into it! Some data is maintained somewhere. Arent all the red light areas known to the government and NGOs… Why they dont rehalibate and try to atleast stop addition in number of prostitutes. Why the NGOs dont take initiatives?

    Our aim should be to undertake Human Development Initiative. Legalising would instead encourage and would not address the issue. Tomorrow I would say lets legalise Burglery/forgery and state all the 5 points given by you (They all apply here too) But that is anti-social element and wont help the society in uplifting…

    Nothing personal, these is my point of view 🙂

    • 3. delhizen  |  July 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      Thanks for sharing perspective.

      Flesh trade been an illegal activity since Indian legal system has been set-up. If law was implemented in the right manner the graph should have gone down instead of looking upwards.

      If you put crimes like burglary at the same level as forced flesh trade, then we need to have more awareness on the subject… You believe it will become an easy option for the BPL population to earn money. Then let me tell you the mafias/ brothels are run by the rich and influential, the poor is merely exploited (most of the time against their will). Besides in the cities the trade flourishes across borders also.

      Prostitution is not like a virus that can be eradicated with medicines, it needs to be controlled in the right manner.

      We have followed a method for more than 60 years and it hasn’t worked. Consider the other side, things may improve!

      At least you got thinking… over a period of time you may even start to see this perspective too!

      PS: Of course it’s not personal; the idea was to share, debate and discuss point of views, you have yours and I have mine 🙂

    • 4. Prateek  |  July 26, 2010 at 3:53 pm

      No proper initiative can be taken if people keep looking away from it. Everyone knows that prostitution exists and happens, but no one wants to dirty their hands.
      I can understand that you disagree with the view but you have yoursef called it a debate. But I see no concrete points backing your point of view.
      More than 90% of girls are bought against their will. Human trafficing is a big problem. Why? Because once they forced into prostitution, they have no right to claim solace from anywhere. The family won’t accept them back and neither does society. Moreover many die of venereal diseases, because of poor health conditions. And think about the psychological and physical effects on the children of these ladies.
      There are a number of NGOs working for it and have done a lot. But it is such a vast problem that without government help it is not possible. Legalising it would ensure that the government will be able to maintain a body to control it and there would be regular checks.

  • 5. joshimukard  |  July 26, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    yes, Pallavi, I agree with you. I second Prateek’s view.

    • 6. delhizen  |  July 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Joshi! I am glad we are on the same page on the subject

  • 7. Karan Agrawal  |  July 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    “If law was implemented in the right manner” says it all. According to the law (constitution) provision was made for reservations only for 10 years and if needed extension of 10 more years. But you know the current situation!
    I dont see legalising will discourage and help in controlling the virus.
    Do you really mean legalising will stop girls being forced into it? Human trafficing will reduce? Today they do it by force, after legalising they will do it proud, without any fear!
    Infection needs to cured and thrown out of the society and not make part of it!

  • 8. Jaky Astik  |  July 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Good points. I told you na? That social worker thing? I’m serious.

  • 9. Jaky Astik  |  July 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Okay, get straight to the point. I advocate it. Just that the list shouldn’t be public.

  • 10. Eva  |  July 26, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Hello and thanks for your compassionate and thoughtful article. I would like to share an international perspective. I am from Holland where prostitution is legal. The great advantage is that the women are seen as free entrepreneurs and are more or less accepted by society, feel safe to get help, regular checkups etc. The drawback is that the human traffic mob just goes underground and is perhaps more difficult to handle than before. So Karan Agrawal, you are partly right. However I don’t think legalization aims to make human trafficking legal. But the women (and men)would no longer be regarded as offenders or criminals so they would feel (more) free to get help if necessary. More importantly, they would hopefully regain some self-worth. Prostitution is never an easy way out for anyone. But women who don’t know what else to do shouldn’t be cast out. (I assume it is illegal in India to visit child prostitutes just as everywhere else, but wider enforcement of this rule would help as well.)

    • 11. delhizen  |  July 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing your view point with us Eva! We appreciate it

  • 12. BullsEye  |  July 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    See there are two sides to it, Voluntary prostitution and forced prostitution..If people think this can be a viable source of income, what is wrong with it? Its high time we accept thing as they are rather than painting a imaginary rosy picture. Though I don’t how legalizing prostitution will curb forced prostitution? Wouldn’t it give a legal pathway to make people do prostitution against there will due to some issues. Its a two way sword, has to be well thought of before going forward with it.

    • 13. delhizen  |  July 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      It is not going to be easy.. Lets see how long before its picked up on a national level

  • 14. Charan  |  July 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm


    Yet again I see another blogger who’s got the vigor and ideas of bringing up something to the betterment of some class of the society. Unfortunately these wonderful idealists either don’t get a chance to implement such decisions as such or rather asked to play down these ideas even if they had such powers.

    I agree that this will make the situation better however it’s the one half of the what needs to be done (and the easier half). The other tougher half that is almost quite impossible to achieve is the change in the mindset of the people to accept “these people” as a bunch of ordinary people, whom one doesn’t have to look down upon or feel uneasy to even talk about !!!

    • 15. delhizen  |  July 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks for appreciating and agreeing with the perspective!

      Hope to see you around more often.

  • 16. ravindra rajput  |  July 28, 2010 at 5:00 am

    I agree with you that prostitution indeed should be legalized..
    Unlike the perception legalizing will help everybody ,mainly the girls who are into fleshtrade and forced to live a horrible life…
    everyone knows that it exists then why to put a blind eye to it ?
    the reason you have mentioned are valid

  • 17. Mayur  |  July 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I’ll advocate for the porn industry to be legalised (not just prostitution). It is recognised as an industry in countries like Australia and is treated as a form of entertainment. But will it solve the obvious problems like trafficking, drugs, exploitation? I wonder…

    Moreover prostitution in India is mostly not by choice. Add to that the taboo behind selling sex (or for that matter indulging in sex, whether paid or unpaid)

    In my honest opinion, I dont think prostitution will ever be legalised in India. Not in the foreseeable future.

    • 18. delhizen  |  July 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Mayur, you summed it up quite well with your opinion. But I just hope someone does pick it up on national level and we can see a change! long drawn process but somewhr it has to start…

  • 19. Bhavia  |  July 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    It should be legalised..Like you mentioned it will help them to be healthy and their kids get access to education and other facilities..

    But more than these,we should fight for them to get an environment where they can also live among us like just another human being

    • 20. delhizen  |  July 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      thanks for your sharing your thoughts on the subject Bhavia

  • 21. flawsophy  |  July 29, 2010 at 1:37 am

    To Quote George Carlin:
    “Selling is legal. F***ing is legal. How come selling f***ing is not legal?”

    I don’t see any reason why these things are still banned. Some people say, “oh! what will happen to our kids, our culture” – Do these people have any idea about the amount of graphic content Indians put and consume on the Internet? How long will we pretend to protect the purity of our hearts?

    Time to leave those poor girls alone .. may be they have a better life awaiting than being forced to sleep with some disgusting self-hater.

  • 22. Sangitha  |  July 29, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Just wrote an article on why it should not be legalized. According to Indian law (currently), it is NOT illegal to be a prostitute. It IS illegal to profit from it – the pimps and madams are the ones in trouble with the law.

    The reasons prostitutes don’t come forward to claim help is social stigma and being physically isolated by their pimps…if they come out to be helped, they can also escape the vicious cycle. So what are we legalizing is the question.

    Nothing stops us from helping the prostitute get medical help, education, access to rehabilitation if they so wish, get the children out of the cycle, etc. There are NGOs that work to do this – the scale is not enough and the law does not enforce a good law as it exists.

    I agree that the prostitute is the victim and not some one to be treated without respect. As someone who also thought like you, it has been a tough and informative journey for me on this issue. If you would like to see the alternative view point, it is at

  • 23. Kartikay  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Isn’t this a favourite debating topic? Ha!

    Anyways, I assume that the law is set by some individuals in the interest of the entire public. They classify activities into legal and illegal on the basis of empirical data, “representatives of the cultural public”, public opinion, amongst others.

    My point is that the the law makers are many times disconnected from the people a law is enforced upon. They depend on many intermediaries, reports and opinion surveys.

    This boils down to the core problem: that we’re never really sure the law acts in the benefit of the people.

    Prostitution? Gambling? Betting? Tips of the iceberg, I say!

    (On a slightly related note, have you read this article on legalizing gambling on livemint?

    • 24. delhizen  |  August 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      K, if same sex marriages can be made legal in the culturally bound Indian society, then I dont see a reason why Prostitution cant be legalized as well- especially since it involves a huge percentage of adults and children.

      And I dont about the empirical data or public opinion because if you got out and start counting then it is still not acceptable by majority of Indians, esp the older generation.

      Its about acceptance and for law makers to come to terms with a fact that its time something is done about.

      PS: and I hope it is a fav topic of debate, coz if it is then I want to see it being picked on a national level here!

  • 25. heart7break  |  November 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    gud selection of content..a very contemporary topic to debate on…but i dbt the possibilities of legalising it in the current political system…no party or politician would have the guts to come out and put this idea forward…

  • 26. doggy batchelor  |  September 16, 2013 at 1:16 am

    See, india is world’s formost poor and illiterate country, because 80% of indian are suffering form malnutrition and 75% anr uneducated without food, they earn less than $1 a day. So they do everything possible to survive. Though prostitution is a oldest profession but in indian context defination of this profession is different, they are the victim of political leaders, police and local gangs. I think this senario will never change unless 95% of indian get food and education with the help of European and other firs world countries. Some pros are even more beautiful than common hipocrete indian girls. Its their job, so it has to be done with good skill. I support prostitution world wide, and wish their fortune. In india most of them came formpoverty and illiteracy. International help requred.


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