Any person, male, female or transgender involved in engage, offer, engage to offer in the business of sexual conduct in exchange for money, is called as ‘prostitute.’ Unlike pre modern era, prostitution is a gender-neutral term now.

Section 2(f) of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act define prostitution as, “the sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes or for consideration in money or in any other kind.”

Poverty, marginalised groups, women being treated as an object, etc, are some of the various causes of prostitution. Sexual exploitation is increasing irrespective of gender & illiteracy.

Acts that promote sex industry

In India, talking about sex, giving children sex education, pre-marital sex is all deliberated a taboo. However, the sex trade throughout the nation is on demand. The other side platforms that fulfill this industry are –
● Customer solicitation
● Brothel management
● Pimping or controlling the prostitutes
● Sex trade/traffic

Legal status and the legislation

The legal status is always categorized into legal, illegal and legal with limitations. India’s legal status on the prostitution is legal but is limited and have certain restrictions.

The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act

It was passed in 1956 with an objective to prevent immoral traffic. The legalisation is based on how and where should the prostitution takes place. Section 7 states that prostitution should not be carried out within 200 yards from the public places, including schools, colleges, hospitals, hotels, and religious places.

Rights of the sex workers’

Discrimination in our country is a core issue irrespective of which group they belong, be it marginalized groups or the sex workers group.

Abused faced by the sex workers
● Physical attacks
● Harassment
● Forced detention
● No legal protection
● High access to sexually transmitted diseases

Recognition and Rights
UNDP and the ILO accentuated the legal rights of the sex workers regarding their occupational health hazards, safety and standards of their workplace. The sex industry works on rights and non-judgmental laws, regulations and policies.

Several international, national and regional commissions like UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific, Independent Commission on AIDS, UN SP on Right to Health, and the legislations like CEDAW insist to put pressure on –

– the recognition of sex workers,
– eliminate discrimination
– their workplace with a safe environment,
– equal treatment and protect them from abuse and vulnerability.

The Apex Court of India recommend the sex workers to leave their profession in their own preference as they have the right to life as per Indian Constitution. Sex workers shall have the right to rehabilitation and ensure that rehabilitation homes do not abuse or detain them. Sex in public places is an offence.

Illegal Acts
Prostitution is legal when it is consensual and not forced. Indian legislations safeguarded the rights of the sex workers by restricting and limiting the industry with barrier. The acts below, if acted upon, are illegal and are punishable under ITPA and IPC.

– Procuration and importation of minor girl from foreign country (s.366A & 366B of IPC)
– Buying and selling of a girl for the purpose of prostitution (s.372 & 373 of IPC)
– Brothel management (s.3 of ITPA) and punishable for three to seven years and penalty of 2 lac rupees
– Living on the earnings of prostitution of 18 yrs or older or a child (s.4 of ITPA) and punishable for 2 years and 7 to years respectively
– Procuring, inducing or taking a person for prostitution (s.5 of ITPA)
– Detaining the person inside the brothel premises, performing prostitution in public places, seducing a person under custody for prostitution are punishable (ss. 6-9 of ITPA)
– Forced prostitution

1. Ms. Roohi Babu, B.SC., B.L., (Hons), Advocate practicing at Madras High Court, with 5 years of experience in IPR and Family matters.
2. B. Smruthi, 4th Year student of BA, LLB (Hons) at Saveetha School of Law, SIMATS, Chennai.


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