Prostitution in India

Prostitution in India

History of Prostitution:

Prostitution in India is the oldest profession. It is a general misconception that prostitution in India is illegal, rather prostitution is legal but pimping, owning and managing a brothel is illegal. Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata are the major cities in India where brothels are operating illegally in large numbers. Prostitution in itself is neither illegal nor punishable under the act. This article explores the arena of prostitution and does justice to those weaker sections by legalizing this Act.

According to the Indian Penal Code, certain activities related to sex are not considered illegal per se and contradict laws that are in place. However, activities as enumerated below if found to be true, one is entitled to be punished in accordance with laws of the legal arena in place:

Soliciting services of prostitution at public place

Carrying out prostitution activities in hotels

Being the owner of a brothel


Indulge in prostitution by arranging a sexArrangement of a sex act with a customer

Is Prostitution legal in India?

In the Indian context, prostitution is not explicitly illegal though pronounced to be unethical by the Court, certain acts that facilitate prostitution are regarded as illegal and acts like managing a brothel, living off the money procured by means of prostitution, soliciting or luring a person into prostitution, traffic of children and women for the purpose of prostitution, etc. are made explicitly illegal by the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA). For example, running a sex racquet is illegal but private prostitution or receiving remuneration in exchange for sex with consent without prior solicitation might not be illegal.

Laws related to Prostitution:

ITPA defines “prostitution” as sexual exploitation or abuse of a female for monetary purposes and a “prostitute” is the person who gains that commercial benefit. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 also deals with prostitution but it is limited to child prostitution. However, it attempts to combat activities such as kidnapping in general, kidnapping for the purpose of seduction and luring a person into sex, importing a girl of a foreign country for sex, etc.

In addition, Article 23(1) of the Constitution prohibits traffic in human beings and beggars and other similar forms of forced labor. Article 23(2) declares that any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law.

It was stated in Raj Bahadur v. Legal Remembrancer[1], that

“Clause (2) however permits the State to impose compulsory services for public purposes provided that in making so it shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them. ‘Traffic in human beings’ means selling and buying men and women like goods and includes immoral traffic in women and children for immoral” or other purposes.”

This Act dims at suppressing prostitution in women and girls and achieving a public purpose viz. to rescue the fallen women and girls and to stamp out of prostitution and also to provide all opportunity to these fallen victims so that they could become decent members of the society[3]. This Act seeks to criminalize the acts amounting to prostitution as mentioned above and authorizes the police to remove them, to close brothels and move them to institutions that may reform them. It empowers the Central Government to establish a Special Court to try offences under this Act.

Laws for the protection of sex workers and their rights:

The right to life enshrined under Article 21 is also applicable to a prostitute. This was explained in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar v State of West Bengal[4]. It stated that sex workers are human beings and no one has a right to assault or murder them as they also have the right to live. The judgment also highlighted the plight of sex workers and empathizes that these women are compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty and directed the Central Government and State Governments to open rehabilitation centers and impart technical and vocational skills like sewing so that they attain other means of livelihood.

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 declares certain acts to be illegal. These acts include a solicitation for prostitution, managing a brothel or allowing the usage of certain places as brothels, living on the earnings of a prostitute’s money, inducing or kidnapping a girl for prostitution, detaining girls in brothels, seducing a person under custody for prostitution and carrying out prostitution.

Highlights of Prostitution in Northeast

Allegations have been made by locals that a group of non local people, suspected of entering from Bokajan and Lahorijan area of neighbouring state of Assam, are operating the sex racket. Reportedly it has been learnt that previously such activities were carried out from new market area of the city but after facing public wrath, the sex workers have shifted their area of operation in the said place. It seems that the police and civil societies have turned a blind eye and done nothing to stop such menace in the city.


Author:- Kezevinuo Kuotsu, a Student of Dispur Law College, Guwahati




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *