Should Prostitution be Legalized?

Blogadda.com has included this particular post on ‘legalization of prostitution’ as one of their best this weekend!

The very suggestion seems shocking. Isn’t it? How could one even think of allowing a degrading and humiliating state of affairs to become a full fledged legal profession? Well, it is a fact that prostitution is here to stay in spite of and despite the laws that exist. People still frequent prostitutes. And women are still selling their bodies. So, is that all justification enough to legalize prostitution like in several other countries? What about the women sex workers themselves? How beneficial is legalization going to be to them? Is their situation going to improve or degrade further with legalization?

How voluntary is prostitution?

From the time of the devadasis in ancient India where celibate dancing girls were offered to Hindu Gods, when tawaifs were patronized in the name of art, dance and culture till the British era when the red light area was created solely to refresh the British troops, prostitutes have been living off their bodies. While for some it is an inheritance that has been forced down the generations, still others have been victims of lust, dejection, incest, rape and poverty. Prostitutes don’t earn their living only in brothels; there are innumerable women doing their jobs in bars, hotels, streets, beauty parlours, etc.

Laws like SITA (Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act) and PITA (Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act) have been in existence from the year 1956 but prostitution has neither been suppressed nor prevented even 44 years later. So, what will legislation do? Those for legislation of the world’s oldest profession believe that by this the women will no longer get victimized unnecessarily by the law. Maybe, this would also enable them to get regular health check-ups done for HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, etc. Maybe, the pimps and traffickers can be got out of the way enabling for better rights for the prostitutes themselves. Maybe, with legalization, the children of the prostitutes will not be forced into following in their mothers’ footsteps considering the fact that their mothers will be functioning independently without fear and with economic independence. This way, they will be able to provide their children with the education they never got.

But then, there are too many ‘ifs,’ ‘buts’ and ‘maybes.’ What if legalization only serves to promote prostitution and increase the number of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in an already HIV/AIDS infested nation?  Will legalization be able to curb child prostitution? Will making prostitution legal not make the prostitutes only just shift their clientele (non-voluntarily) to the law (officers, etc) in order to see that their licenses remain valid? Lastly, prostitution is 99 out of 100 per cent forced than voluntary at least in India. No woman would want to take up a profession like prostitution unless circumstance places her in such a situation. So, placing prostitution on par with other professions serves no constructive purpose. Will it give the woman the dignity she deserves?

The solution for prostitution lies in destroying the mental set-up of the men who visit prostitutes to satiate their carnal desires (in spite of having wives) and also being instrumental in spreading Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The solution lies in re-habilitating women who are already in the profession and want to get out of it. On the other side, since prostitution is bound to function anyway (ethics apart), will legalization be of any help?

What do you think friends?

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36 thoughts on “Should Prostitution be Legalized?

  1. Shail, all your posts are thought provoking.. I’m glad to be a reader of your blog.
    Now to the post. If I had read this a decade ago, I would have vehemently said ‘No!!! this is immoral!’ Now, however, I believe this is something that has always been around, and will always be!! So if it was legalised, it would atleast provide some protection to the poor women involved in this trade!!

  2. Hi Shail,

    A very apt topic and I’m glad you’ve come out with all the information in open about prostitution going on in one of the so called ‘ancient’, ‘age-old’ cultures… That said, I don’t believe that a large number of women get into this trade voluntarily.
    Our society is very hypo critic, like one would know. We’re alright with an Aishwariya Rai dancing in barely nothing, skimpy clothes in a ‘Kajra Re’, that becomes a national anthem. Similarly, if another woman does the same in a dance bar, it becomes ‘cheapening’ and ‘unethical’.
    I’ve myself known many of these pot bellied gentlemen, married and so who only bring another woman (read : prostitute) home when the wives are away.
    One should first of all, try and sensitize men. I’m hurt that many do not think rationally or with sensitivity about it. There is some essential difference between animals and us. The ‘instinct’. We’re supposed to have brains. I wonder if we really do.
    Meanwhile, as we all know, it is easier said than done, but REHABILITATION is the order of the day for women in prostitution.
    And I’ll beg pardon for people who say that there are male prostitutes too. The number is far more vast of women prostitutes than the male ones.
    One, as you say, needs more sensitive, thinking men. Who understand that there is something beyond The Physical.

  3. Pallavi :

    Shail, all your posts are thought provoking.. I’m glad to be a reader of your blog.
    Now to the post. If I had read this a decade ago, I would have vehemently said ‘No!!! this is immoral!’ Now, however, I believe this is something that has always been around, and will always be!! So if it was legalised, it would atleast provide some protection to the poor women involved in this trade!!

    Hi Pallavi,

    I am glad you enjoy reading my blogs. That in itself is an encouragement to keep writing what I do.

    Yes, views are changing everywhere. Now that we know and don’t deny the fact that prostitutes are here to stay (voluntarily or not), it is high time something is done for them – not the usual moral standards bit but something practical.

  4. Sneha :

    Hi Shail,

    A very apt topic and I’m glad you’ve come out with all the information in open about prostitution going on in one of the so called ‘ancient’, ‘age-old’ cultures… That said, I don’t believe that a large number of women get into this trade voluntarily.
    Our society is very hypo critic, like one would know. We’re alright with an Aishwariya Rai dancing in barely nothing, skimpy clothes in a ‘Kajra Re’, that becomes a national anthem. Similarly, if another woman does the same in a dance bar, it becomes ‘cheapening’ and ‘unethical’.
    I’ve myself known many of these pot bellied gentlemen, married and so who only bring another woman (read : prostitute) home when the wives are away.
    One should first of all, try and sensitize men. I’m hurt that many do not think rationally or with sensitivity about it. There is some essential difference between animals and us. The ‘instinct’. We’re supposed to have brains. I wonder if we really do.
    Meanwhile, as we all know, it is easier said than done, but REHABILITATION is the order of the day for women in prostitution.
    And I’ll beg pardon for people who say that there are male prostitutes too. The number is far more vast of women prostitutes than the male ones.
    One, as you say, needs more sensitive, thinking men. Who understand that there is something beyond The Physical.

    Hi Sneha,

    A terrific response! Yes, the hypocrisy and all. We are basically like that even after having ancient origins of the Kamasutra we are constantly living in denial of the fact that somethings are here to stay, which could be avoided and also be taken care of with rehabilitation, sensitivity and the like.

  5. I agree, this trade has to be legalized so as to given them a decent status despite it being looked down as immoral.No reforms can wipe out this age old trade. What is not openly seen is white color society’s illegal trade of this kind when celebrities to politicians, big corporates to sports persons patronize them.

  6. Shail, I shud thank u for putting across these issues in public forums…i am all for leagalisation…we do understand that from our perspective its sumthing which no woman in her senses would do…but once they are into it its difficult to have an escape from it…wat is impt in such a situation is to give them human dignity so that without fear of any harrassment they are able to access health services, education services for their children and a better life than wat they lead now…
    as far as men are concerned i think its difficult to contain anyones’ carnal desires…but sure values should be inculcated to respect women…

  7. Regarding legalizing prostitution, there is nothing wrong in asking for it. As you have observed anyway it is going to exist. In some of the countries I have seen prostitution being open and legal. Psycologically once a supression is removed then no body is going to take it serious. But the thing to follow would be sex education at all level. Yes, we have to take a bold step and it should be legalized.

  8. Prostitution is here to stay, like it or not. Legalizing it would free up these women from police harrassment at the very least. A very good blog, Shail.

  9. A good blog Shail. I agree it should be legalised, though how well that will work is anybody’s guess. But all women are not forced into prostitution. In the higher echelons of society, where they are called ‘call girls’ and ‘escorts’ and may be a few more names to set them apart from prostitutes, many women enter into this knowingly; they come from good homes and are out to make a quick, hefty buck.

  10. Shail,

    I am for rehabilitation of these women and most importantly their children. AS you have noted legalization will only extend their tentacles into the society becoz once into the profession the women are more bound to think in a negative way and into increasing their domain and income . And may even threaten common man .

  11. Yes, prostitution should be legalized considering that controlled environments will ensure safety for both the customers and the prostitutes and the latter would no longer be exploited by customers, pimps or organized crime rings. Underage and unwilling prostitution would be curtailed plus instances of HIV/STDs can be checked.

  12. S.R.Ayyangar :
    I agree, this trade has to be legalized so as to given them a decent status despite it being looked down as immoral.No reforms can wipe out this age old trade. What is not openly seen is white color society’s illegal trade of this kind when celebrities to politicians, big corporates to sports persons patronize them.

    Hello SRA,

    Nice to see you here. Your view point as a man makes it all the more significant. Yes, only legalization can bring improvement to these women who are drawn into this trade for want of other jobs or the indifference of society.

  13. prerna :
    Shail, I shud thank u for putting across these issues in public forums…i am all for leagalisation…we do understand that from our perspective its sumthing which no woman in her senses would do…but once they are into it its difficult to have an escape from it…wat is impt in such a situation is to give them human dignity so that without fear of any harrassment they are able to access health services, education services for their children and a better life than wat they lead now…
    as far as men are concerned i think its difficult to contain anyones’ carnal desires…but sure values should be inculcated to respect women…

    Hi Prerna,

    Lovely reply. I am happy to note that more and more people are expressing their views FOR legalization, something they would have restrained from saying ages ago – all the result of hypocritical living.

    Yes, the prostitutes need some practical help that will aid them when they have grown old too. After all, they are human too and they have their children to take care of also.

    Let’s hope for a less hypocritical society and more sensitivity around.

  14. Sundararajan :
    Regarding legalizing prostitution, there is nothing wrong in asking for it. As you have observed anyway it is going to exist. In some of the countries I have seen prostitution being open and legal. Psycologically once a supression is removed then no body is going to take it serious. But the thing to follow would be sex education at all level. Yes, we have to take a bold step and it should be legalized.

    Thanks Sundar. Yes, prostitution is legal in some countries but they do have a different culture where sex comes early on in the lives of the people. As you rightly mentioned, sex education is the best way to keep people away from such problems.
    As for the current situation where prostitutes suffer due the indifference of society, legalization will at least give them the protection of basic needs that any human being deserves.

  15. Indrani Talukdar :
    Prostitution is here to stay, like it or not. Legalizing it would free up these women from police harrassment at the very least. A very good blog, Shail.

    Thanks Indra. Yes, prostitution is here to stay. Can’t expect it to go away in the land of the Kaamasutra and a country which has hypocritical views about sex..

    So, the best thing out to really genuinely help the women from the red light area is to legalize prostitution.

  16. A very idealistic thought there but the ground realities are such that the prostitution is bound to stay. Not only there are women who have been forced into this trade but there are also high end escorts one keeps hearing of who enters into the trade so that they could live a certain lifestyle.

    Legalizing prostituion would at least free them from the pimps who abuses them and also prevent other girls (newbies) from getting into the trade difficult. In a way it would give them some rights that would be able to protect their dignity.

  17. Satya Prakash :
    I thing we are sharing. The blog I mentioned here is customized from the theme you are using. I have customized it slowly and it become what you see today

    Hi Satya,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. But I did not get the customizing bit. Kind enough to explain?

  18. Shernaz :
    A good blog Shail. I agree it should be legalised, though how well that will work is anybody’s guess. But all women are not forced into prostitution. In the higher echelons of society, where they are called ‘call girls’ and ‘escorts’ and may be a few more names to set them apart from prostitutes, many women enter into this knowingly; they come from good homes and are out to make a quick, hefty buck.
    Thanks Shernaz. Yes, we really wouldn’t know how good legalization would be. It could fireback too but I am sure it would not be as pitiable and humiliating for the women as it is now. Don’t you think so?
    Yes, sadly, some women are into this profession knowingly and it really feels dreadful!

  19. Krishna Leela :

    Shail,

    I am for rehabilitation of these women and most importantly their children. AS you have noted legalization will only extend their tentacles into the society becoz once into the profession the women are more bound to think in a negative way and into increasing their domain and income . And may even threaten common man .

    Hi Krishna,

    Thanks for stopping by.Prostitution is here to stay. Whether the women like it or the men. Or not! And it also means that AIDS, HIV and other sexual diseases are also on the prowl. It also means that the children born to these women are helpless results of unwanted encounters. So, is it their fault? Don’t they deserve a better life. Legalization hopes to do this. Let’s hope it works.

  20. Sonal Shree :

    Yes, prostitution should be legalized considering that controlled environments will ensure safety for both the customers and the prostitutes and the latter would no longer be exploited by customers, pimps or organized crime rings. Underage and unwilling prostitution would be curtailed plus instances of HIV/STDs can be checked.

    Hi Sonal,

    Yes, I agree completely. For all the reasons that you have mentioned, yes, legalization is a must. Whether society agrees or not.

  21. The Survivor :

    A very idealistic thought there but the ground realities are such that the prostitution is bound to stay. Not only there are women who have been forced into this trade but there are also high end escorts one keeps hearing of who enters into the trade so that they could live a certain lifestyle.

    Legalizing prostituion would at least free them from the pimps who abuses them and also prevent other girls (newbies) from getting into the trade difficult. In a way it would give them some rights that would be able to protect their dignity.

    Yes, Survivor. Legalization will certainly make the situation better for these women and their children. If only the government and the NGO’s permitted this. There are some NGOs which are doing great work. But it doesn’t seem to be enough.Don’t you think so?

  22. Legalization is necessary. AS yous aid, the profession is here to stay, and legalizing it would at least give a chance for the women to ensure that their own kids do not follow their parents into the profession, and also safeguard their rights.

  23. Varun Reddy :
    Legalization is necessary. AS yous aid, the profession is here to stay, and legalizing it would at least give a chance for the women to ensure that their own kids do not follow their parents into the profession, and also safeguard their rights.

    Hi Varun.

    Right you are. We not only must think about the hapless women but also about their children who did not ask for such a pitiable and humiliating situation. So, legalization is indeed apt.

  24. Prostitution is here to stay whether legalized or not. Hence it will be better if separate areas are earmarked and even permits may be issued to this trade. One of my office colleague once expressed that she was mistaken as call girl when she was waiting at bus stop and some youngsters tried to approach her. This happened when she was returning after performing duty up to 9 pm. With sheer presence of mind, she started talking with another middle aged man who was also at the bus stop, and boarded the next bus to escape from the scene. Similarly brokers start approaching college students / youth in several popular public areas.

    Hence I think it is necessary to earmark separate areas where it can be permitted.

  25. I read your Blog just today,and I totally agree with your views. I am happy to see many comments(from wise females)supporting your thoughts.
    Legalising this as a profession/trade will definitely helpful and control many health risks.

  26. YEs it shud be legalised , it will bring better conditions for these poor souls and also there kids .. and as you mentioned the health risk can be monitored.

  27. A.Hari :
    Prostitution is here to stay whether legalized or not. Hence it will be better if separate areas are earmarked and even permits may be issued to this trade. One of my office colleague once expressed that she was mistaken as call girl when she was waiting at bus stop and some youngsters tried to approach her. This happened when she was returning after performing duty up to 9 pm. With sheer presence of mind, she started talking with another middle aged man who was also at the bus stop, and boarded the next bus to escape from the scene. Similarly brokers start approaching college students / youth in several popular public areas.
    Hence I think it is necessary to earmark separate areas where it can be permitted.

    Hi Hari,

    I agree. When it has become a reality there we must definitely accept it and as you said ear mark a place. Although this reality is really disgusting but what to do? It is a reality all right.

  28. Shashi Mohan Sharma :
    I read your Blog just today,and I totally agree with your views. I am happy to see many comments(from wise females)supporting your thoughts.
    Legalising this as a profession/trade will definitely helpful and control many health risks.

    Hi Shashi,

    Nice to see you here. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, once it has become a harsh reality and people from society are making use of this profession to fend for themselves and also satiate their sexual desires then, something like legalization should be done. Either way, it will continue. There is no way stopping it. So, a known devil is better than an unknown devil.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  29. Bikram :
    YEs it shud be legalised , it will bring better conditions for these poor souls and also there kids .. and as you mentioned the health risk can be monitored.

    Hi Bikram,

    For men it is easy to say that yes, it should be legalized but when you have women also saying this then you know that the situation is drastic and only legalization will help. Thanks for expressing your side of the issue.

  30. Ranjini Ravi :

    Looking at the bright side of it…maybe it will help reduce the demand for it…considering the general tendency to do more of what is forbidden!!

    Exactly Ranjini. Although I am not one to advocate or promote prostitution but we can never understand the situation unless we are suffering ourselves.

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