Prostitution and sex…oops! I am not supposed to speak out these words openly. None of us are allowed to talk about it in public or in group discussions. There are believed to be so-called confidential words in India. But wait confidential in what terms? Confidential enough to drag a girl into flesh trade? Or confidential enough to force a minor girl into sex racket? What answer does our orthodox society have now?
Prostitution is not supposed to be spoken out loud. But it can be widely practiced in our country, isn’t it? Wherever we find evidence of human culture, we find evidence of prostitution! That’s the reality today…
Prostitution is almost certainly not the world’s oldest profession. That would probably be hunting and gathering, followed perhaps by subsistence farming. Prostitution has existed in nearly every civilization on earth, however, stretching back throughout all of recorded human history. Whenever there have been money, goods or services available for barter, somebody most likely bartered them for sex.
The early beginning..
In ancient India, while tracing the history of courtesans from the beginning, archaeological findings have shed a great deal of light on the highly urbanized culture of the Indus Valley people, but we cannot definitely confirm or refute the existence of sacred prostitution in the absence of any concrete evidence. There is the possibility that the bronze figure of the dancing girl from Mohenjo-Daro represents a sacred prostitute within the precincts of the temple of the Mother Goddess, a cult which was very popular in the Indus Valley culture.
But, in the absence of any concrete evidence to support this view, we cannot be sure that our contention is correct. The institution of courtesans is a distinguished feature of developed urban society and therefore, in Vedic and post- Vedic literature though the courtesans are mentioned casually, we hardly know much about their life and accomplishments.
Vedic culture though based on high moral values and metaphysical speculations did not turn its back on the pleasures of life. In spite of the rural bias of Vedic culture, there is evidence pointing to the fact that prostitution existed in Rig Vedic times. The earliest mention of prostitution occurs in the Rig Veda, the most ancient literary work of India.
At first, however, we hear of the illicit lovers, Jara and Jarini – male and female lover of a married spouse. What distinguished such an illicit lover from the professional prostitute or her client is the regular payment for favours received. When we hear of an illicit lover, there may or may not have been an exchange of gifts; in a case of mutual consent, gifts must have been optional. In the days of barter economy, when money or currency was yet unknown, such gifts were equivalent to payment in cash.
Hence love outside marriage was a familiar phenomenon even in the earliest Vedic age. Extramarital love may have been voluntary and unpaid but it might have been regarded by the male partner as a form of service for which he was obliged to pay in some form. But till it was confined to a particular person, it was a temporary contract and not regarded as a profession. The later Pali term muhuttia (lasting for an instant) or its Sanskrit equivalent muhurtika signified purely temporary unions with no lasting relationship or obligation.
Such affairs may have been voluntary or professional, depending on the attitudes of the partners. Gradually, there arose a section of women who, either because they could not find suitable husbands, or because of early widowhood, unsatisfactory married life or other social pressures, especially if they had been violated, abducted and so denied an honourable status in society or had been given away as gifts in religious or secular events- such women were frequently forced to take up “prostitution as a profession”. And when they did so, they found themselves in a unique position; they constituted the only 173 section of women who had to be their own bread-winners and guardians. So, women who took up prostitution had to be reasonably sure of an independent livelihood; their customers had to make it a viable proposition for them.
During the late 16th and 17th century, when certain parts of India were a colony under the Portuguese, Japanese women were captured and brought to India as sex slaves. Another example of the increased use of women as sex workers can be during the Company Rule in India. The military established brothels (Current red-light areas of Mumbai) for its troops across many parts of India. Rural women and girls were employed by these brothels and were paid by the military directly.
According to the Human Rights Watch Report, there are 20 million prostitutes in India out of which 35% are below the age of 18 years. Due to the lack of strict laws, prostitutes are often exploited by pimps and owners of brothels. This has resulted in several crimes against women wherein they are kidnapped for business under this occupation.
Prostitution has not spared little kids!
Estimates say that child prostitution is a multi-million dollar industry in India. More than half a billion children are in Brothels and they are either sold by their poor parents or victims of abuse. Close to 7000 girls are brought from Nepal to India for body trading. These children are then exported to the Middle Eastern countries as Sex slaves.
According to the Human Rights Group, 90% of the populations are trafficked from Nepal. Nepal is one of the popular destinations among Pimps and brothel owners as Nepalese women are attractive because of their fair skin and sleek body. Encyclopedia of Sexuality written by Elizabeth Schroeder states that Human Trafficking is an issue that has gained importance in the recent past usually in South and Southeast Asia. Most offenders who are caught by the police are locals and not foreigners.
Is flesh trade legal in India?
A very important question that arises here is that is prostitution legalized in India? The answer is neither a “Yes” nor a “No” due to the ambiguity and vague nature of the Indian law when it comes to Prostitution. Prostitution in itself is not punishable by law but activities such as running a brothel, soliciting and pimping are punishable under law.
Prostitution is legal in almost half of all countries worldwide: 49 percent. It is illegal in 39 percent of all nations. The remaining 12 percent of countries make prostitution legal under limited circumstances or by individual states.
India almost bans Sex trade…
Although the Immoral Traffic Suppression Act (SITA) theoretically banned the commercial sex trade in 1956, Indian anti-prostitution laws are generally enforced – and have traditionally been enforced – as public order statutes. As long as prostitution is restricted to certain areas, it is generally tolerated.
India is subsequently home to Mumbai’s infamous “Kamathipura, Asia’s largest red-light district”. Kamathipura originated as a massive brothel for British occupiers. It shifted to a local clientele following Indian independence.