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Decriminalize Prostitution: Sex Workers Are Humans Too

26 Nov,2022 04:30 PM, by: Posy Lui
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In India, prostitution is not entirely illegal. But under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a number of related activities that fall under the definition of prostitution are prohibited. These include owning or operating a brothel, soliciting, kerb-crawling, prostitution in hotels, child prostitution, pimping and pandering, among other things. Running a brothel is illegal in India despite the fact that voluntary sex work is permitted. This is because of the country's laws regarding human trafficking and sex work, the fact that many of the sex workers are lured into the flesh trade and subjected to exploitation and violence, as well as Section 7 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956, which forbids and punishes red-light districts near public buildings like schools, colleges, and temples, etc.

Sex workers shouldn't be treated as criminals by the law and society, because apart from being considered taboo and already suffering from social stigma, they do not have access to labour rights and social welfare benefits. Instead of raising fingers at sex workers, the law and society should consider them as human trafficking victims and as people in difficult situations who require social and financial support. However, despite the stereotype, not all women or men are merely coerced into sex employment by physical force or financial necessity and the fact that all sex workers are not exclusively women. Many of them are LGBTIQA+ men.

Indeed, a job is a job, period. The nations that favour the registration of prostitution as a legal profession have similar philosophies regarding the right to work and the freedom to select one's job. Of all industries, sex work is one where an average person (mainly women) can make a respectable income: a salary that is twice more than what men and women can make as mediocre labourers. Additionally, because they frequently return the majority of their earnings back to their rural relatives, their influence on economic life in both urban and rural areas far outweighs their numbers. Because of this, both sex workers and their relatives rely on these somewhat average incomes to avoid poverty and engage in the social contributions and consumer market by purchasing homes, running errands, putting kids in education, buying automobiles and land, that they otherwise could not afford etc. But in contrast to every other typical profession, loitering and public advertising by sex workers are punishable by fines. Yet, sex workers are categorized as criminals and are subject to severe punishments if they promote their services or congregate at a prostitution facility to sell sex.

The sex trade is still a clandestine sector despite being a multi-million industry, and many underemployed or unemployed rural women are lured into urban regions to provide sexualized labour for financial incentives. There are many parties (including politicians, religious figures and well-known entertainers amongst others) participating in this particular endeavour, and the sheer number of persons connected to sex workers suggests that a significant portion of society may be physically and economically dependent on the sex industry. Nonetheless, sex workers are the ones who are usually treated as criminals. In the name of law and order, the police and other authorities exploit the already miserable and tireless sex workers by forcefully extorting money or blackmailing the people in the flesh industry. This shows that the law that makes the sex trade illegal is ineffective and pointless.

It is understandable that the requests of all labourers in the flesh industry are straightforward: to stop treating them like criminals, grant them employment rights comparable to those of other professions, treat them equally with other people, and reintroduce their human dignity. Gangubai Kathiawadi, a recently released superhit biographical (Bollywood) film, aptly reflects the predicament of sex workers and their need for legal protection.

The above points call to the attention that instead of punishing the sex workers- the lowest member of the sex trade industry, the state should uphold the rights and safety of sex workers, prevent exploitation, improve their health, and provide them with fresh employment opportunities. There are several ways the government can restrict the extent of the sex industry without employing criminalization or legislation. Law enforcement efforts alone are insufficient to stop crimes brought on by societal inequities. And unless a person chooses to commit the crime of human trafficking and other illicit activities, the state authorities and the law itself, should not interfere with an individual's decision to perform sex work as an income or frown upon on their career choices.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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