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  • The meaning of Prostitution and itsbrief history.
  • Root causes of prostitution.
  • The directions by the Hon’ble Supreme Court to recognize prostitution as a profession.


Prostitution is derived from the Latin term prostituere, which means to expose oneself in public. Under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956, Prostitution has been defined as the sexual exploitation or abuse of people for economic gain. Prostitution has a long history in India, dating back to ancient times and continuing into the nineteenth century in British India, and it is still a generally accepted societal reality today. In today's world, "prostitution" is not an unknown phenomenon. The poor, illiterate, and ignorant sectors of society are the victims of the trap, and they are the biggest target group in the flesh trade; wealthy communities exploit them and profit from their agony and humiliation in organized gangsterism, particularly with a police nexus.


Prostitution in India is primarily due to poverty. It is difficult for a woman to be financially independent in a patriarchal society, especially if she has been denied education, liberty, and talents. As a result, prostitution becomes the sole source of income. Due to a lack of means to support themselves or their children, the majority of people enter this career out of need, frequently following the dissolution of a marriage or being rejected and thrown out of their homes by their own families.

Women's vulnerability to sexual exploitation is a result of India's restricted, traditional society, which regards women as nothing more than an object or a commodity. The existing caste system in India is another major cause of prostitution, as marginalized women are frequently sexually exploited and allowed to rot in the degraded system. Other reasons for prostitution include a lack of sex education, kidnapping, and abduction.


The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India issued a set of orders to recognize prostitution as a profession and to emphasize that sex workers, like any other professionals, are entitled to dignity and constitutional rights.

A Panel was constituted to prevent trafficking, ensure rehabilitation of sex workers who choose to leave sex work, provide conditions conducive to sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity, pursuant to an order issued by the Supreme Court on July 19, 2011.

The Supreme Court allowed sex workers to live in dignity in conformity with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Panel provided a complete report on the terms of reference after a thorough discussion with all interested parties. When the case was listed in 2016, the Court was informed that the panel's recommendations had been reviewed by the Government of India and that draft legislation containing the panel's recommendations had been issued. Following that, the Union of India took recurring adjournments on the grounds that the Bill was still being worked on. So, now the Court has exercised its powers conferred under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to issue the following directions, which would hold the field until a legislation is enacted by the Union of India:

  • Everyone, including sex workers, is entitled to equal legal protection. The authorities must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action if the sex worker is an adult who is participating with consent.
  • When a sex worker files a criminal/sexual/another type of an offense report, the police must take it seriously and follow the law.
  • All facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault should be provided to any sex worker who is a victim of sexual abuse.
  • Since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only maintaining a brothel is, the sex workers involved should not be detained, penalized, harassed, or victimized if a brothel is raided.
  • The State Governments were directed to survey all ITPA Protective Homes to assess and handle cases of adult women who are kept against their wishes, and to release them in a timely way.
  • The police and other law enforcement organizations should be made aware of the rights of sex workers, who are entitled to all basic human rights and other constitutional rights. All sex workers should be treated with dignity by police officers; they must not be verbally or physically abused.
  • The Press Council of India was advised to create suitable guidelines for the media to not divulge the identity of sex workers, whether as victims or accused, during arrest, raid, and rescue operations, and not to publish or telecast any images that would result in such exposure.
  • Measures taken by sex workers for their health and safety (e.g., the use of condoms) shall not be regarded as crimes or seen as evidence of a crime being committed.
  • All decision-making procedures involving sex workers and/or their representatives, including planning, devising, and implementing any policy or programme for sex workers, or formulating any change/reform in the laws relating to sex workers, must include sex workers and/or their representatives.
  • Workshops should be held by the Central and State government to educate sex workers about their rights, including the legality of sex work, police rights and responsibilities, what is authorized and banned under the law, and their legal remedies.
  • No child of a sex worker should be separated from her mother just because she works in the sex trade, as suggested in the 6th interim Report dated 22.03.2012. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that a child living in a brothel or with sex workers has been trafficked. If the sex worker claims to be her son or daughter, testing can be performed to see if the claim is true, and if it is, the child should not be forcibly removed.


In a society where prostitution has been a long-standing profession that continues to thrive as a business, it would be foolish to turn a blind eye to it and pretend that the system and its defects do not exist. Sex workers will have a better life with better earnings, health security, and protection if sex work is decriminalized with adequate rules and regulations and made lawful. Not only that, but as a society, it will be a positive step toward eradicating many societal problems such as child prostitution and rape. The SC's directions are merely the first step toward removing some of the long-standing barriers that sex workers have encountered. As a democratic country, India's constitution guarantees justice, equality, and liberty to all citizens. Unfortunately, sex workers have been structurally excluded from "equal opportunities" aspects. It is past time to put an end to such flagrant contempt for the protection of human rights and dignity of sex workers and legalize prostitution.

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