Summary of Prostitution
Prostitution in India is almost the same as in the rest of Asia, involving women and child trafficking and catering to the booming sex tourism. Research shows that most women who enter the trade tend to come from urban slums and poor rural areas. High prostitute supply regions in India include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh,Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and some very poor North Eastern states.According to a study, over 50% of prostitutes come from across the border from countries,like Nepal and Bangladesh.
Women trafficking and prostitution
In a majority of cases in India, extreme deprivation and lack of education seems to be the cause of prostitution, not sexual and psychological aberrations that these sex workers are branded for.
Major Indian surveys on women and child prostitutes reveal that they were sold or tricked by their relatives or agents working for brothel owners and pimps.The agent who brings the girls sells them as commercial sex workers(CSW) to the brothel owner. Once the deal is struck the girls have to work for the brothel owner to pay off their cost. Though the agent pays a petty sum to buy the girls from their source—be it from parents, husband, boyfriend or siblings, repeated trafficking of such women means a lucrative business for the agents and the brothel owners.
“Breaking in” Rites
The life of a prostitute living in the “red light areas” in India is terribly difficult and painful. The initial “breaking in” rites include savage beatings, rapes, and other forms of psychological and physical torture. The sooner they get the hang of the trade, the easier for them because life can get much worse with resistance, depending on the conditions of the brothel and the viciousness of the clients, pimps and brothel owners.
Cage girls” in “Pillow houses”
The worst brothels are called “pillow houses”, where prostitutes are separated by cloth dividers in tiny rooms. Visitors are charged INR 500.00/ for a few minutes, and strict vigil is maintained to discourage prostitutes from talking to their customers. Payment is made to the brothel owner who keeps the money, and allows as many as forty visitors a day during “peak” season.
Point of no return
Escape is never an option because there is a nexus between criminal gangs, pimps, brothel owners and the local police who share the major part of the CSW’s income. What trickles down to the hapless woman is a mere pittance. It is an open secret that all important red light areas in India enjoy police protection, which means the policemen themselves go to the brothels for tea, snacks and girls.In return for favors they inform the brothel keepers in advance about the raids that are scheduled to take place. A girl who escaped from her brothel and went to police was reportedly raped by them, and brought back to her owner the following day. Most prostitutes do not even make the attempt to escape because they have nowhere to go, they are illiterate and have been smuggled into the city.
Call girls are commercial sex workers who are part-timers and are usually more educated, carry cell-phones, and are well groomed and cannot be compared to those living in brothels. They have more mobility, earn higher incomes and have some freedom in choosing their clients who are mostly from the middle and upper classes of society. A study of 150 call girls, 20 clients and 10 “madams” in Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore, found that 80% percent of their clients were married. Many of them had suffered from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at least once and had experience of induced abortion.
Generally call girls are known to take good care of their health and visit doctors whenever necessary. Almost all of them want their clients to use condoms, though they most often comply when clients offer a much higher amount for condom-free sex.
A subsequent study among call girls in Delhi in 1993 showed a high number of their clients preferred oral sex to vaginal intercourse. Some of them belonging to the upper-middle class were aware of AIDS and rejected clients who refused to use condoms.
The costliest end of the supply chain operates with high-class escort girls recruited from women's colleges and from India 's burgeoning fashion and film industries. These CSWs offer services for large sums of money and usually operate by way of a discreet introduction service. The boom in Internet services has seen the emergence of several snazzy websites, openly advertising escort girl services.
Devadasi tradition or “sacred prostitution” is a form of sex work that dates back several centuries with the ritual found in written records even in the 12th century. The tradition involves a religious rite, in which girls and women are dedicated, through marriage, to different gods and goddesses, particularly to the goddess Yallama in a small temple in northern Karnataka. It is seen now as a ruse to do temple duties, which mainly involve providing sexual services to priests and patrons of the temples. Though abolished now as illegal, the practice continues in areas in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to this day.
A US sponsored study comparing the sociodemographic characteristics and sex work patterns of women involved in the traditional Devadasi form of sex work with those of other female sex workers (FSW), in the Indian state of Karnataka, showed that, of the 1588 FSWs interviewed, 414 (26%) reported that they entered sex work through the Devadasi tradition. Devadasi FSWs were more likely than other FSWs to work in rural areas (47.3% vs. 8.9%, respectively) to be illiterate (92.8% vs. 76.9%, respectively), were more likely to be home based (68.6% vs. 14.9) and were less likely to report client-initiated violence in a year (13.3% vs. 35.8%) or police harassment.
Prostitution or sexual gratification for money is perhaps the world’s oldest known trade. The changing face of the murky trade has now broadened to include street prostitution, massage brothels, escort services, gigolo outcall services, strip clubs, lap dancing, phone sex, child prostitution and sex tourism.
This high risk industry is fraught with violence and abuse but keeps growing by the day, raking in revenues for those who call the shots and with women and children as hapless victims of exploitation.
Prostitution is classified as victimless or consensual offence, because it is generally assumed that in such shady deals services are willingly offered and taken. But research done all over the world— in developed, developing and under developed countries shows that may not be the true picture of prostitution.
Sexual and physical violence and pornography
Most prostitutes have been subject to sexual and physical violence at some point of time in the line of their job. A US survey among adults working in prostitution reported the following:
82% had been physically assaulted;
83% had been threatened with a weapon;
73% had been raped while working as a prostitute;
70% were victims of sexual assault by customers;
50% were reportedly kidnapped by pimps;
76% were beaten by pimps;
79% were beaten by customers;
In another study 38% of prostitutes stated that pimps regularly exposed them to pornography. 80% stated that customers used pornographic videos and photographs to demonstrate which activities they wanted the prostitutes to perform, most often for kinky sex.
Prostitution causes harm to women and children
Melissa Farley who conducted an extensive research on prostitution in the US, observes in her “Prostitution: Fact sheet on Human Rights Violations”, that prostitution involves sexual harassment, battering, rape, verbal abuse, childhood sexual abuse and a violation of human rights on the whole. Farley writes, "Whether it is being sold by one's family to a brothel, or whether it is being sexually abused in one's family, running away from home, and then being pimped by one's boyfriend, or whether one is in college and needs to pay for next semester's tuition and one works at a strip club behind glass where men never actually touch you – all these forms of prostitution hurt the women in it."
Statistics in the West
Given the clandestine nature of this trade and the social stigma attached to it, statistical data are extremely difficult to gather, but researches suggest that there are more than 1 million prostitutes in the US and 80, 000 in the UK.
One survey shows that nearly 50%of men in the US have been with a prostitute at least once in their lifetime. In a study among prostitutes in London, it was seen that 50% of clients were married or co-habiting. A 2004 survey shows that 95% of the street prostitutes or “kerb crawlers” as they are infamously called, are drug users and many are homeless.
The ugliest face of the sex trade in many Asian countries is child prostitution. A 2004 UNICEF report estimates 500,000 child sex workers in India alone. Given the phenomenal increase in sex tourism, the number is bound to have risen to frightening proportions. Poor families are tricked into selling their children to such work for meager sums as 4 or 5 USD. Their family members thrust sometimes girl children who are victims of incest into this trade.
A prevailing myth that having intercourse with a virgin cures sexually transmitted diseases (STD) continues to create a demand for very young girls.
Police as Pimps
Apart from the many child prostitutes working in Indian brothels, many more are tempted into the sex trade by sex tourists and pedophiles who offer children money and other rewards for sexual activities. Just one Indian city Goa, sees as many as 10,000 pedophiles visiting each year. Seventy percent of the children who are victims of such sex acts do not tell anyone. Though according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, many other international treaties and agreements and local Indian laws, child prostitution is strictly illegal, offences rarely end in conviction.
The crime ring is well organized and police officers extort money from traffickers, and offenders and abet the system of prostitution by falsifying documents to prove that the children are not minors. In one case, a ten-year-old girl prostitute who was rescued by a hawker after many attempts was returned to the brothel keeper by the local inspector on the same day.
Legal vs illegal debate
A recent international bulletin states that “prostitution and trafficking of women and children is the third largest income-earner globally”—drug trafficking and arms sales being the first two money-spinners. In countries like Amsterdam prostitution is perfectly legal. The profession is well organized, government-regulated and consequently, even socially acceptable. At the other end of the spectrum are some Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia where prostitutes are still lashed in public or stoned to death. The Legal Tangle: SITA
The stated objectives of laws passed in India in 1956 and 1986 regarding prostitution, were 'suppression' and 'prevention’ of prostitution. The 1956 Suppression of Immoral Trafficking Act (SITA) “assumed that prostitution was a 'necessary evil' and prohibited a prostitute from soliciting clients in public places and forced her to work in certain areas known as red-light areas.”Though the SITA did not aim to punish prostitutes unless they solicited, it exposed them to exploitation by pimps and policemen in that it gave enough powers to police and other government agencies to terrorize, harass and financially exploit a prostitute.
The 1986 Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) provides “marginal benefits to prostitutes by prohibiting male police officers from searching them unless accompanied by two female police officers; and also by seeking to draw women away from prostitution through rehabilitation in Protective Homes.”
A landmark judgment highlighting the importance of educational rights for the children of Commercial sex worker (CSWs) was passed in January1993. It granted permission for the admission of CSWs’ children in schools without stating the father’s name, which is the customary procedure in school admission.
The social stigma attached to this trade makes rehabilitation of commercial sex workers tricky. People who were willing to donate for different social causes were reluctant to donate to rehabilitate these hapless women until organizations like CRY (Child Relief and You) undertook to educate children of CSWs. Government rehabilitation measures are not comprehensive and practical. Remand houses or the protective houses where the rescued women are housed are usually overcrowded, mismanaged, without facilities or vocational training. The wardens treat the girls with utmost contempt because of their shoddy past and most often the girls conclude that life before was better and so when the pimp comes to claim them posing as a brother/sister /uncle/aunt, they readily go with them to resume her sex work.
“there is no difference between a scientist who uses his brains, a teacher who uses his verbal abilities, a laborer who uses his hands and a sex worker who uses her body.”
Demand –supply goes hi-tech
The advent of the world wide web through the Internet and the very handy cell-phones has added a new dimension globally to the sex industry and turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry. Its growth in the Indian and global market cannot be merely wished away, for it is the demand that creates the supply. Currently the demand supply-chain is so obvious that doing a simple Internet search can yield results on sex tourism and advice. For the vast majority of the world's prostituted women and children, prostitution is a nightmarish experience of being hunted, dominated, harassed and assaulted that leaves them battered physically, mentally and emotionally, despite the numerous forums and manifestoes drawn up to improve their situation.
No end in sight
The prime reasons why many commercial sex workers in India are driven to this type of life style that capitalizes on the body factor are lack of family support and inability to provide for themselves due to poverty and illiteracy. As long as these factors are left unattended by the society, the supply chain will remain intact. For as long as people want to buy sex, prostitution will be considered ‘normal’ and will continue to thrive with all its attendant horrors and injustice that are an inevitable part of this lucrative business.As a customer said – ‘As long as there are men in the world -Sex will always sell.’
If prostitution is to be the accepted way of life for our world, then it is time that the social structure needs to be strengthened to provide this service without exploitation of the women; however there can be no norms of acceptance for the exploitation of a minor.