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In this article, we are presenting the practice of prostitution in India and its relation to the history of India. Also, it provides a deal about the mindset of the people towards the prostitutes as well as the practice of prostitution in India. We are presenting the wide aspects of the people dealing with the buying and selling of the sex, main issues that are faced by the sex workers, their interests and benefits, etc. Further, we are presenting the idea of the legalization of prostitution as an improvement for society. Prostitution always doesn’t involve female prostitutes but also it includes male beings. However, the male beings in this society are less miserably affected than the female beings yet we can’t deny the fact that they too are victims of this. Women have been suffering since time immemorial due to various crimes that are inflicted upon them by the superior gender. These crimes include rape, domestic violence, acid attack, sexual abuse, molestation, eve-teasing, prostitution, etc.


Prostitution in India has been considered to be a very serious problem that has been worldwide spreading across all the countries. Prostitution is also like all the other crimes that are happening against women or girls. The victims are usually the women or the girls of our society. Out of which some are also the male victims who suffer the bad impact of such heinous crimes.

The word prostitution itself suggests that it talks about a woman. The word prostitution has been derived from the Latin word “prostituta” which means “to offer up for sale”. It means offering or getting the bodies of others as a kind of object for fulfilling sexual desires or sexual pleasures. These bodies are being hired as similar to the hiring of a car as a sale agreement. In the case of prostitution, mainly there is sexual intercourse or sexual activity in which two people are involved except for the spouses. In this activity payment of money is also involved.

There are different perceptions regarding prostitution in India. They vary based on numerous factors like culture, values, wealth-oriented, societies, etc. A certain amount of people consider prostitution as a well-respected profession in society and also give due respect to the women who are involved in prostitution while others are being humiliated, punished, put behind bars, and are made a joke before others. It has also been laid down in certain cultures that prostitution is considered as an option of puberty for girls and some it has been considered as a medium for the acquisition of dowry. So, it has been viewed differently by different people.


If we go through the history of India, we can find that the prostitution concept arose from this history. At that time prostitutes were named “Devadasi” who completely made their lives in the name of Lord Krishna.

These women called Devadasis were treated with utmost respect and honor by the royal families. As long as there was British rule, no royal king or warrior even dared to touch the women. But as soon as the British rule came to an end, these women were used as sex objects by the British officials. They were made to dance and sing in front of the officers and this resulted in one-night stands and ultimately led to prostitution in society. This as a result gave birth to prostitution in the country. As the economy of the country was going down during British rule, these women started selling their integrity in the form of exchange of money giving birth to prostitution in the country. As a result, it was due to the British government that even today prostitution exists in our country.

Even during the old days when India was a colony under the rule of Japanese, Portuguese, various women were traded and brought to India as sex workers and were made to perform the one-night stands in exchange for money just to feed their families or to maintain their bare minimum source of livelihood. This dated to the time of merely sixteenth or seventeenth century. Also, during the period of Company Rule in India, many women were brought as sex workers which further enhanced prostitution in India. It was so shameful that even during those times military camps were used as brothels for prostitution and many young girls and women were also made to perform one-night stands. These all facts were mentioned in the History books of Indian mythology.


When the word prostitution comes into the picture, there arises what causes prostitution to come into this picture. There are numerable reasons for the causes of prostitution in India which can be enumerated in great detail. We can figure out the two most important causes of prostitution in India. This mainly includes poverty and unemployment. Poverty is one of the main reasons for the outbreak of prostitution in India.

So, we can consider urbanization as also one of the major factors of prostitution in India. Urbanization has made society more prompt to joblessness, crimes, unsafe, and prone to evil activities. Many sex workers are involved in this activity of prostitution because of unemployment. It's not a cakewalk to get a job and especially when there is no earning member in the family. So due to this unemployment, most of the destitute women prefer being sex- workers and sell their bodies in exchange for money. The less opportunity of jobs drives the women towards prostitution to get easy money in hand. Prostitution in India has been continuing for decades.

According to an estimation of recent studies around 6 percent of women are driven into prostitution after facing the horrendous crime of rape. Many women are being humiliated or tortured to shame after being raped. They are treated with inequality and disintegrate as if they have committed a certain crime. Sometimes these rape victims not only struggle against society but also their family members when they treat these innocent women with an eye of inferiority. As a result, their families not accepting them, the society humiliating them at every stage, these innocent women become so depressed and frustrated that they finally choose the path of prostitution to make easy money out of it and lead a minimum happy life. Also, according to studies it has been stated that around 8 percent of women in India are involved in prostitution due to incest. These young girls face incest from their very close family members like father and daughter, uncle and niece, etc. When they feel unsafe in their own families, these young chums prefer to end up in prostitution. All these factors directly or indirectly lead a person to land up in prostitution.


Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 defines prostitution as sexual exploitation or abuse in exchange for money to satisfy their sexual needs for commercial purposes. Even the Indian Penal Code, 1860 also deals with prostitution, however, it is only based on child prostitution. It mainly deals with doing away with any kind of sexual activity or making someone enter into sexual activities or sexually seducing a person, also even doing away with buying and selling of women or girls as prostitutes.

It has also been stated in Article 23(1) of the Constitution which denies or combats human trafficking or any kind of other forced labor. The punishment for the same is being provided under Article 23(2) of the Constitution.

Relevant case law in this regard is stated in Raj Bahadur v. Legal Remembrancer, AIR 1953 Cal 522, 57 CWN 507 on February 17, 1953. In this case, it was based on clause (2) which gave the right to the state to direct certain mandatory services for the welfare of the general people with the condition that there should be no kind of discrimination on the ground of religion, caste, creed, color, sex, etc. In this case, there was the involvement of human trafficking among women and girls for immoral purposes and illegal activities which were considered unlawful before the eyes of the law.

The concept of prostitution was mainly dealt with in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. Another relevant case law related to it was The State of Uttar Pradesh v. Kaushalya, 1964 AIR 416, 1964 SCR (4) 1002 on October 1, 1963. In this case, various sex workers of a particular organization were made to vacate the place to maintain the peaceful atmosphere of Kanpur. This case came before the High Court of Allahabad in which it was stated by the Honorable High Court that such vacation of the workers from their places infringed their fundamental right under Article 14 and Article 19(1) sub-section (d) and (e) of the Constitution.

Even there was planning of amending the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 in 2006 but the same was never into the process. This amendment aimed to make the punishment stringent and to increase the fine amount to an enormous level. Also, it aims at punishing those persons who visit near sex- workers with an intent of violating their rights and sexually abusing them with rigorous imprisonment of not less than three months and a fine of Rs. 20,000.

Article 21 of the Constitution also applies to a prostitute. A prostitute has the right to life. It was stated in another case law of Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal, Criminal Appeal no. 135 of 2010 on 14 February 2011. This case stated upon the fact that the prostitutes to are human beings like all others and they too have the right to life as all others have such right. No one can use them for exploitation or sexual abuse. Also, this case lighted upon the poor plight of the sex- workers that how they are being driven into such sexual activities due to their poverty and unemployment. So, the judgment was made directing the state and central government to set up various employment opportunities like sewing, rehabilitation centers, and other training institutes to impart knowledge and salary to make them lead a peaceful and healthy life.


The legalization of prostitution helps to provide security to minor children. According to studies it has been estimated that around 10 million minor children are engaged in this prostitution and only legalizing this concept can help them to come out of prostitution. Time to time checkups in medical help to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. The legalization of prostitution helps to reduce the rate of rapes and sexual abuses in the country. Also, its legalization helps to reduce the forced prostitution that takes place around for commercial purposes. The body that is offered in a prostitution activity must be offered according to one’s own free will. Through the process of legalization, the rights of the sex- workers will be protected. The legalization of prostitution helps to control the sex industry, street prostitution, decreases the secret prostitution carried on in any other centers.

The legalization of prostitution shall help to uplift the condition of the system in society. There will be the removal of middlemen from society and the sex- workers can avail their rights and obligations. They will get proper wages and salaries according to their necessities. Also the criminal activities and other exploitative factors will reduce to minimum.


Prostitution should be legalized because it is a legal form of work for those who genuinely involve in it without any kind of force or threat. It is a kind of profession which should be respected as all the other professions. It will help to lessen the burden of the government in imposing anti-prostitution laws. Also, the countries would raise their revenue through the form of imposing taxes, through the process of foreign exchange trade, and the process of increasing employment opportunities. The sex- workers too would receive medical treatment and check-ups from time to time for the safety of all the other people in the society. Through the legalization of prostitution, the rights of these sex- workers will be protected and secured.


  1. Legalization of Prostitution in India: Need of the hour- Legal Services India,any%20sexual%20activity%20in%20public.

  1. Legal aspects related to prostitution in India- iPleaders- iPleaders Blog

  1. Prostitution in India- Wikipedia

  1. Prostitution in India- Read it’s causes, legality and law

  1. Prostitution, Definition, History and Facts- Britannica

  1. Raj Bahadur v. Legal Remembrancer, AIR 1953 Cal 522, 57 CWN 507 on February 17, 1953- indiankanoon

  1. The State of Uttar Pradesh v. Kaushalya, 1964 AIR 416, 1964 SCR (4) 1002 on October 1, 1963- indiankanoon

  1. Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal, Criminal Appeal no. 135 of 2010 on 14 February 2011- indiankanoon

  1. Legalization of Prostitution in India- Legal Service India






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