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Does Prostitution be Legalised and will it help in curbing Human Trafficking and Rape Cases

NAME: Ashish Singh

DESIGNATION: B.A.LLB. 4th year, Faculty of Law, Banaras Hindu University


Does Prostitution be Legalised and will it result in an increase in Human Trafficking and a decrease in the Rape case?


According to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, ‘prostitution’ means the sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes. Prostitution is a sensitive subject in India. Frequently, arguments against prostitution centre around concern for the health and safety of women, and those concerns are not unfounded. Prostitution is an incredibly dangerous profession for the (mostly) women involved; sexual assault, forced drug addiction, physical abuse, and death are common in the industry. For the women who work in this field, it is often very difficult to get help or get out. Many sex workers were sold into sex trafficking at a very young age and have no resources with which to escape their forced prostitution, or started out as sex workers by choice only to fall victim to sex trafficking later on. Moreover, since prostitution is illegal in India, there are few legal protections in place for prostitutes; many fears that seeking help will only lead to arrest, and many who do seek help are arrested and then have to battle the stigma of a criminal record while they try to reintegrate into society.

However, legalizing prostitution has had positive benefits for sex workers across World. The most well-known country to have legalized prostitution is the Netherlands, where sex work has been legal for almost twenty years. Bringing the industry out of the black market and imposing strict regulations has improved the safety of sex workers. Brothels are required to obtain and renew safety and hygiene licenses in order to operate, and street prostitution is legal and heavily regulated in places like the Red-Light District. Not only does sex work become safer when it is regulated, but legalization also works to weed out the black market that exists for prostitution, thereby making women safer overall. Also, sex workers are not branded as criminals, so they have better access to the legal system and are encouraged to report behaviours that are a danger to themselves and other women in the industry. Finally, legalizing sex work will provide many other positive externalities, including tax revenue, reduction in sexually transmitted diseases, and reallocation of law enforcement resources.

Prostitution does not allow the general public to have the benefit of these pretenses. Rather, the industry is honest about how sex and money are directly related. And for many individuals, this is an uncomfortable notion. It is even more uncomfortable for some people to believe that women should be allowed to have the control over their bodies that would permit them to engage in prostitution voluntarily; they cannot allow themselves to believe that women would choose such a profession.

Yet rather than recognize this reality, those who oppose the legalization of prostitution march forth with arguments about concern for the safety of women. They fail to realize that criminalizing prostitution does not help sex workers, and their arguments lead to legislation that harms women while operating under the morally-driven guise of wanting to protect them.

Indian Legal Framework

The laws governing sex work in India are entailed in the Constitution of India, 1950; the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. The Constitution apart from the equality provisions and provisions of freedom of association, right to life, and personal liberty guarantees prohibition of trafficking of human beings and forced labour. Under Part IV of Directive Principles of State Policy: the State is required to direct its policies towards securing, inter alia, that both men and women have an equal right to an adequate means of livelihood, that health and strength of workers not be abused, and that citizens are not forced by necessity to enter avocations unsuited for their age and strength, promotion of the educational and economic interests of weaker sections of the society, ensuring their protection from social injustice and exploitation(emphasis supplied), the requirement of fostering respect for international law and treaty obligations, obligation on the state to raise the levels of standard of living and the renunciation of practices by citizens that are derogatory to the dignity of women. The Andhra Pradesh High Court has also affirmed that these combined duties are placed on the state and a corresponding right is placed on citizens including sex workers.


The impact of legalized prostitution on human trafficking inflows. According to economic theory, there are two opposing effects of unknown magnitude. The scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking, while the substitution effect reduces demand for trafficked women as legal prostitutes are favoured over trafficked ones. The empirical analysis for a cross-section of up to 150 countries shows that the scale effect dominates the substitution effect. On average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows.

On average, countries with legalized prostitution experience a larger degree of reported human trafficking inflows. We have corroborated this quantitative evidence with three brief case studies of Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.












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