Prostitution or sex trafficking mortifies basic human dignity. Though in recent years, the issue of sex trafficking has garnered a lot of attention of the law-makers, activists, and social workers, yet the efforts to combat the crime remain woefully inadequate. Millions of young girls and women are forced into prostitution every year and are treated as expendable slaves, gulped by the traffickers and pimps until there is nothing left (Saini, 2020). While the society at large turns a blind eye to their sufferings, these voiceless and powerless victims continue to perish. With India acing into the 21st century as a bourgeoning economic power, it cannot ignore the importance of ensuring human rights, justice, and decency for its citizens irrespective of gender, age, occupation, and status (Kara, 2013). While millions across the nation are exploited and remain lost in poverty for ages, the country’s sex slaves are the most brutalized and violated sections of all. The practice of raping women for profit or selling children as sex slaves is against humanity and calls for a complete ban on them. No human should ever have to barter their dignity just to fill their stomach with food. Until and unless, such kind of tragic realities continue to exist in India, on the global front the country’s legitimacy will always be tainted. Approximately more than three million women and girls are in the profession of sex work while the majority of them are between the range of 15-35 years of age (Dutt, BN & N, 2017). More than 90% of women usually get pregnant during sex work (Pardeshi & Bhattacharya, 2006).
The systematic arrangement of prostitution has been cultivated and led by the patriarchal society to glorify the subordination of women by men thus, demeaning the dignity and existence of womanhood (Patkar, 1991). However, the resultant off-springs owe their birth to the mating of a male and female no matter to what extent these children are shunned by the society owing to their illegitimacy (Cornish & Flora, 2006). Due to uncountable reasons and helplessness, a woman may have to sell sexual pleasure in the market but, it’s the involvement of both man and woman for the procreation of children. And, if the humiliation is a part of this profession, then both are equally responsible to share the burden. But the child has no part in it. Children are the souls of human existence on earth. Depriving the Growth, and development, peace and order, and stability in the society.Children of their right to healthy and safe childhood owing to any reason ultimately dispossess the nation of its potential human resources hindering the social progress, economic
THE PLIGHT OF THE CHILDREN BORN INTO BROTHELS
‘Prostitution’ disregarded as a respectable career option, oriented as a potential threat to the institution of marriage and foundation of social relationships, is the oldest profession since time immemorial, and hence, abolishing prostitution in India is beyond imagination. Owing to such polluted mindsets, the sex-workers are nowhere considered humans, and their bare minimum needs & necessities are neither recognized nor given any place in any legislation. Given these circumstances, the sex-workers are vulnerable to all kinds of violence and in a case out of sheer ill-fate if they become pregnant the child also bears the brunt and is not spared. Every effort is made to bestow the same destiny as the mother, on the child either by force or by choice. Contrary to the existing Indian custom of idolizing sons’ birth and dreading on the birth of daughters, for instance in the brothel the birth of a girl is wanted by everyone so that she becomes an addition to the source of income in the brothel.
Considering the persisting family system in the society, the role of the father is to earn money while the mother is duty-bound to procreate and nurture the family (Patkar, 1991). In the brothel, it is basically the single-handed responsibility of the mother to earn as well as nurture the child. Thus, in this process, the mother fails to protect and care for the child and ultimately the entire childhood of the child becomes a phase of sheer neglect. For any child, her closest role model is her mother. And seeing their mother sleep with a variety of strange men every night who even at times harass the child physically and mentally during the initial growth period of life is in itself a traumatic experience for any child. Without emotions and care, the child is vulnerable to all kinds of activities that take place in the brothel.
Further, the atmosphere of the brothel is hardly conducive to render healthy childhood to any child. Basically, more than 10 women including their children are huddled into a small, dark room where the women entertain their customers keeping their children under the bed (Patkar, 1991). The room usually stinks of semen and even the same ratio for the bathroom which is equally dirty and stinks of human excreta. The children here mostly grow loitering around the streets, sleeping on the pavement, joining gambling groups, helping agencies and traffickers procure drugs, or running errands for their mothers’ customers. Sometimes even the kids are drugged so that they won’t be able to disturb their mothers during their duty hours. The children in the brothel are exposed to its radical environment at a very young age where they see their mothers in the sexual acts often rough and violent or bargaining with the customers or brawling with the customs or pimps or getting beaten by the traffickers or pimps. These acts of cruelty & inhumanity often create drastic psychological and emotional pressures leading many to become rebellious, abusive & violent and also, develop feelings of bitterness towards life. Experiencing rejections and insecurities as a part of life, these children often tend to possess wrong information about sexuality, people, and the life which at a later stage destroys their own life.
HEALTH & EDUCATION
The health of the children in the brothel is even more vulnerable. Inadequate nutrition and vaccination, lack of medical attention are the core reasons for the deterioration of the health of these children. Monetary sufficiency is just enough for survival and all other requisites of health and wellness are viewed as luxuries by the sex workers. Lack of hygiene and sanitation exposes these children to life-threatening diseases like malaria, jaundice, typhoid, dysentery, etc (Patkar, 1994). The health conditions of girls attaining puberty are worse since their menstrual health is equally neglected. Sometimes, if any sex worker is suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, then upon the birth of the child, it contracts the same disease. Further, owing to the environmental distress, it is natural for these children to get habituated to emotional stress which in the long term affects the mental health and well-being of these children. The birth of these children is treated as a curse and incase any child suffers from any birth deformities or disabilities, the child is treated as useless and abandoned by the mother and if kept in the brothel, the child’s life is worse than the life of any animal.
A decent education is a distant dream for the children of the brothel. The majority of these children are denied education especially girls owing to the fear of the pimps and the traffickers that educated children to argue and question everything. Sometimes, even though few of them join a school, they even drop out very soon since the exposure in the school to the outside world makes them face the harsh reality that they are ‘socially unacceptable’. Even they are frequently harassed by their fellow mates and teachers and condemned as “child of a call girl” (Cornish & Flora, 2006). Many times when the sex workers are unable to pay their children’s school fees, they are asked to pay in kind, and the children are also tormented for all the same reasons. Due to improper guidance and supervision, the children are unable to cope up with the pressure of studies and fail to complete their home assignments which they
Are frequently scolded by their teachers. These circumstances create fears in the minds of children and they completely quit education and follow their role models of pimps, Traffickers, drug peddlers, and gamblers.
LAW FAILS TO FATHOM THE SOCIAL REALITY
In 2007, a study conducted on the national level by the “Ministry of Women and Child Development” which included the children living in families, streets as well as institutional care showed grave results of sexual abuse. Around 53% of these children were victims of rampant sexual abuse. However, the Survey did not undertake the vulnerability of the children in the brothel into account. Their existence in society is continuous denial. Emotional, sexual, physical, and mental abuse of children in the brothel is common (Sanlaap, 2010). And the abusers include common man as well as the children’s own mothers and caretakers.
The Indian Constitution enumerates all the fundamental rights to be universally applied to all citizens without any kind of discrimination. While Article 21 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that the right to live with dignity and personal liberty is a fundamental right of every human, there are certain Articles specially mentioned for the welfare of the child. The Government has the ability to provide specific arrangements for kids within Article 15(3). Furthermore, Article 23 aims to protect kids from human smuggling and abuse while Article 24 prevents minors from working in any dangerous business. Article 21 A recognises the access to education as a basic human right for all kids, taking into account their growth. Under Directive Principles in Part IV of the Indian Constitution, the State is under obligation to provide opportunities and facilities for the development of children healthily as well as protect them against moral and material abandonment. Further, time and again, the Indian Government incorporates various national policies and laws for the welfare of the children and also sets up commissions to supervise and look after the enforcement of these laws and policies. However, it is important to note here that none of the policies or laws addressed the needs and rights of children born in the brothel. These children are mostly considered under the category of ‘marginalized’ or ‘disadvantaged’ children. Considering Article 15(3) the children born in the brothel are a different category and need to be mainstreamed to protect their childhood as well as child prostitution and under this Article, the State is empowered to do so, however, none has been done so far.
Thousands of children every year become victims of the sex trade by the arbitrary chance of birth in the brothel yet the society shuns them and mock their situation passing moral judgments to further assassin their character (Patkar, 1991). It’s a complete rape of innocence yet no one is liable for punishment. The life of these children continues to be a piece of flesh to satisfy men’s urge for sex. In reality, the kingpin of the majority of brothels in India is those stakeholders who act to be legal guardians of society. The orthodoxy mindset claims ‘Prostitution’ to be a social evil while at the same time considers a sex worker to be of immoral character. So very conveniently the burden of blame shifts on the woman whom the society neither accepts as a victim nor stops those men from feeding on her. The sole question lies in the existence of the child. The child is never a born sex worker nor wants to become one by choice if provided with life options. Then, why the society shun the child as illegitimate and continue to witness silently the child perish on its own? It’s the stakeholders including those policymakers, health workers, social workers, etc. who make every effort to continue the generations of women in the sex trade and innocent children are trapped in pain and agony (Mentzer, 2010).
The International Conventions2 and Instruments3 come and go year and year however the children of sex workers suffer silently in the backwaters of the fallen society. Their fair share of opportunities and rights are denied to them because their mothers are sex workers. Usually, in this patriarchal society, the child is recognized under the name of the father but the child of a sex worker owes its recognition from the mother’s occupation. Where a man starts running a brothel business which is the most common case, then he is a businessman and his child is normal, however, a victim of that brothel business is a characterless woman and her child is illegitimate. Further, when a sex worker claims a man to be the father of her child, every effort is made to silence her and her child since she is defaming a respectable man however when the same respectable man seeks pleasure and participates in the sexual act with the sex worker, that time no respect is taken into consideration. The definition of ‘respect’ even sidelines with higher physical power. In every case, the child remains illegitimate and the sex worker is characterless and of low virtue but the man is always ‘respectable’.
Further, if the arguments of the conventional group are to be considered for once that ‘prostitution’ is an immoral act and not a profession, then also what about the child? Why should the child bear the burden of an immoral act done by two adults? Why the entire life of the child is based on illegitimacy? The society seeks ways to refrain from answering these questions. The sex workers belong to the same society as that of those men responsible for the pregnancy of the sex workers then why there is a differential in treatment towards one gender only? Why the women bear all biases and also, bear the responsibility of the child? A child’s responsibility is of both parents but the world of sex trade seems to work upon every step of injustice and unfairness. The children of the brothel are usually silenced whenever they question the identity of their fathers. Had they been taught about reasoning and freedom to think even they would question the society’s biases.
Talking about the responsibility of the child, the mother bears the sole responsibility but where the sex worker herself is vulnerable to crimes and acts of violence, the child’s future is doomed in darkness. So, the State is under obligation to look after the welfare of the child. However, this can be always an argument that when two adults engage in sexual activities, one seeking sexual pleasure and the other doing sexual business either by force or choice resulting in the birth of a child why the State will be responsible when each person follow their path of choice in life? This is also possible that sex workers keep producing children and the burden on State keeps increasing. To all these arguments, the answer is very simple. A woman cannot procure a child on her own. All those men who are equally responsible for the resultant off-spring should also be responsible to look after the welfare of the child. Since time immemorial the State has failed to prove its efficiency in enforcing stringent actions upon these men to fulfill their duties hence the responsibility by default shifts on the State.
Coming to the legal perspective, as stated earlier in this article the existence of children born into the brothel is a complete denial in this society and so, enforcing laws and policies to address the rights and needs of these children is out question. However, the Devdasi system has been declared unlawful which is also a form of prostitution backed by religious beliefs prominent in the southern part of the country. Under this custom, a ceremony is organized where mostly young women are dedicated to the service of the deity, and the priest and other stakeholders socially exploit these women. Under the Devdasi Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1982 the marriages of Devdasi have been given a valid status and also, their children have been given the status of legitimacy. However, the law has proved its efficiency only in the paper as the custom till today holds its roots strong in various parts of India. After so many years of enactment of the legislation, there has been hardly any case filed against the exploiters and the Devdasi system still exists as rampant as before though now it is carried out secretly. And also, the society still bears the same attitude towards the children of the Devdasi considering them illegitimate.
The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 though identifies the children of the brothel under the definition of “neglected juvenile” as socially delinquent owing to their association with a prostitute fails to acknowledge their needs and proper restoration of their rights. The Act further weakens in its enforcement where under section 14 the Act considers the parents of such children and takes their opinion above the welfare of the child. In most cases, it’s the father or mother or legal guardians who sell their children to the brothel owners and pimps, and in such cases considering their opinion as parents continue to destroy the future of the child. The rescue system of the child finds no mention in any legislation. Further, the strong connections of these brothels with the underworld mafias and politicians and a not so favorable, corrupt legal system ensure that the children born into brothels can never get themselves freed from the shackles of the sex trade.
In Vishal Jeet v. Union of India4 the Supreme Court evaluated the existing rehabilitation provisions for sex workers and their children and stated that these provisions have failed to achieve the desired results and hence the Central and State governments must evaluate these provisions ensuring their implementation. To ensure protection to the victims, the Court ordered a speedy and stringent legal action against the exploiters including those traffickers, pimps, and brothel owners. The Court also gave directions for setting up a Zonal Advisory committee for effective dealing of rehabilitation homes.
In “Gaurav Jain v. Union of India”5 the SC recognized the right to equality of opportunity, dignity, protection, care as well rehabilitation of the children of sex workers and held that these basic to bring these children into the social mainstream so that they can lead a life free from stigmatization. The Tribunal also established precise rules for the formation of a commission to develop a comprehensive plan for the reintegration of juvenile traffickers and kids born into the brothel. In this case, the court also recognized the human rights of these children and recommended that the surroundings and the environment of the brothel and red light areas are not suitable for a healthy childhood.
Considering Gaurav Jain’s case6 the Central Government issued directions for the setting of committees Child Prostitution, Prostitution, and the Children of Sex workers, and a detail report was made containing the Plan of Action which addressed the commercial sexual exploitation, issues of human rights violation, detailed recommendation to address these issues and enforcement of legal reforms and effective legal remedy to the victims of social exploitation (Malhotra, 2005). This Plan of Action aimed to treat the victims non discriminatorily and ensure safe and protected rehabilitation. However, in reality, the Government agencies treated the victims including those children who were trafficked were abused and treated as criminals further victimizing them (Malhotra, 2005). Many times the protection homes and rehabilitation homes are turned into brothels where the protectors rape the sex workers making them pregnant else kill them to silence them forever. Thus, even though the judiciary upholds the rights of these children the State ensures that the rights are never made available to these children. In pen and paper, there have been so many policies, legislative acts, committees enacted and implemented however, the conditions of the children of the sex workers to date reveals the naked truth of the stakeholders (Ma, Chan, & Loke, 2017).
Traditional orthodox thinking perceives ‘prostitution’ as a crime leading to the social boycott of the children born in the brothel which also challenges the fundamental right against untouchability guaranteed under Article 17. ‘Untouchability’ finds no exact definition under Indian Constitution however in Sabrimala judgment7 by D.Y. Chandrachud J. the ambit of untouchability has been expanded to include menstrual seclusion. Untouchability strikes at disgracing human dignity and creating feelings of inferiority which is against the principles of natural justice. Denying basic rights to the children of sex workers and labeling them as illegitimate and unfit to stay in the society is also a form of untouchability. The social boycott of these children continues to exist in every stage of life. For instance, when a farmer’s son becomes a doctor and earns respect, he is never questioned about his background nor his background create any hurdle for his future. However, a child of a sex worker is always a force to continue in the same business, and in case the child escapes the hurdles to achieve fame in life, the constant taunts about illegitimacy and occupation of the mother affects the future of the child as well as the identification of the child always remains tainted owing to the occupation of the mother. The social exclusion of these children has failed to achieve the constitutional commitments of protecting the rights of children. This social construct of
Continue his dominance reigning on the society. Boycotting these children from the mainstream aims demoralize a child since its birth so that no one can question a man’s chastity or defame him, not even his own child and he can
The focus of this research is to raise awareness about the kids of prostitutes. The preceding study focused on the societal bias and prejudice that these kids suffer, as well as how community and their families mistreat them unjustly. Their birth is deemed to be a curse with no fault of theirs. In this study, the human rights approach is adopted which reflects the fact that humans constitute the society and not vice versa. Morality and immorality are just perspectives about a person or thing or situation however justice cannot be based on the perspective of society. Discrimination and abusing a child because of its birth is equally immoral but the society tends to stand by such behavior. Prostitution is a social problem and it continues to exist since forever due to legal disabilities contributing to ushering such a problem. Thus, the removal of legal barriers is essential for the better development of these children.
Since the society plays an upper hand in manipulating the lives of these children, no matter how efficient, well-designed, and sound legislation is enacted, the living conditions and sufferings of these children would not see an end unless every member of the society becomes sensitive towards the agony of other members. Another contributing factor is the sheer lack of proper implementation of legislation. Further, most of the Indian laws are culturally manipulated and so, unless law raises above all manipulations and considerations and aims for justice, there is very less which can be done about the welfare of these children. Thus, ensuring that these children do not fall prey to any kind of exploitation is the first step towards acceptance of the existence of these children. Life and dignity go hand in hand for every human and the same have to be perceived simultaneously by society as well the stakeholders.
Divya Malhotra, Trafficking of Women and Children: A Culture of Silence, PRACTICAL LAWYER WebJour, (2005) http://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/ 2005_plw_1.htm
Geeta Pardeshi & S. Bhattacharya, Child Rearing Practices Amongst Brothel Based Commercial Sex Workers, Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 288-295 (2006)
Monika Saini, Dwindling Protections for India’s Sex Workers, INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL AND PUBLIC POLICY, (3rd August 2020) https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/socia lpolicy/2020/08/03/dwindling-protections-for-indias-sex-workers/
Priti Patkar, Girl Child in Red Light Areas, Indian Journal of Social Work, 72-80 (1991)
Sanlaap, Vulnerability of Children living in Red light Areas of Kolkata, India, ECPAT INTERNATIONAL, (July 2010) https://www.ecpat.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/04/ YPP_Research_indial.pdf
Siddharth Kara, Zero Traffick: Eliminating Sex Trafficking in India, DASRA, (November 2013)https://www.dasra.org/assets/uploads/resources/Zero%20Traffick% 20%20Eliminating%20Sex%20Trafficking%20in%20India.pdf