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PLIGHT OF SEX WORKERS

Sex workers need to be treated as workers and humans, and the trade of sex needs to lose its currently ostracizing from society.

With the world moving faster towards modernization, the immoral connotation associated with Sex Work worldwide continues to haunt the lives of millions across the modern world. Scintillating glass bangles and curvy traces, red pouts and hair adorned with jasmine, lascivious manoeuvres of hemlines too short, illegal by night, ostracised by day. This is a plausible melange of the imagery that term sex worker arouses.

The Immoral Stance

Although sex work is the oldest profession (Flowers 1988, 5) in the history of civilization, it has gained an unequivocally immoral stance. This hampers the progress of an entire section of the society that feeds itself from the sex trade. No part of the intellectual society has ever accepted sex work as a reputable profession. One can go on to the extent to say that the word 'prostitution' in itself is a derogatory and scornful word. The unwanted focus upon selling one's body is unnecessary, for sex work is too but nothing but an exchange of services. The immoral connotation associated with Sex Work worldwide is an unnecessary and unwarranted consideration, that has been provoked by a chauvinistic attitude. The sex workers need to be treated as workers and humans, and the trade of sex needs to lose its current ostracizing from the society. The outcasting of the most marginalized group in society is part of a continuous endeavour to 'moralize' the society wherein any profession, act, a word that does not belong to the mainstream is considered immoral.

A part of Indian History

Sex workers have always directly or indirectly been a part of the Indian history even though we choose to acknowledge their presence or not. The Devadasi tradition is one such example which finds its roots not only in the 7th century Indian society but is also connected with a prevalent religious practice in the South of India. Devadasi refers to a woman who is considered to be given in marriage to Goddess Yellamma. This tradition although considered holy has a very dark side to it. In modern times, children as young as 4-5 years old are forced into becoming Devadasis. They are then ostracized by temples because of their castes and are pimped forcefully.

The Media and Sex Work

The media very clearly manifests how people treat sex workers in society. There have been numerous movies that show the plight of prostitutes and how their misery is worsened by how society treats them. One such movie called Umrao Jaan (Ali Muzaffar, 1981) shows a story of a young girl, Amiran, who is kidnapped, and sold into a brothel in Lucknow. She is traded into lovers, none of whom actually love her. On the breakdown of her brothel house, when she returns to her home, nobody accepts her and she lives a life destitute, alone, writing poems about her miseries. From the portrayal of the life of sex workers in a Hindi movie Mandi (Benegal Shyam, 1983), they have been always dependent on the whims of the moral and the corrupt. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie beautifully recited in her TEDx speech, the status of women especially female sex workers in Nigeria using her experience when she walked in one the country's best hotels, "a guard at the entrance stopped me and asked me annoying questions because their automatic assumption is that a Nigerian female walking into a hotel alone is a sex worker. And by the way, why do these hotels focus on the ostensible supply rather than the demand for sex workers? In Lagos, I cannot go alone into many 'reputable' bars and clubs. They just don't let you in if you're a woman alone, you have to be accompanied by a man. Each time I walk into a Nigerian restaurant with a man, the waiter greets the man and ignores me."

The Taboo around sex work

Sex work has lately been considered a social stigma and a taboo in a lot of countries around the globe. Despite these notions, it has been legalized in about 80 nations with 12% other nations partially legalizing it. Even in the countries where it is illegal, it continues to survive as an illegal underground sector which is impossible to be done away with. The Coase theorem of economic analysis of law entails that efficiency shall prevail no matter what the legal rule is, given there is a competitive market and transaction costs are zero (Altman 2000,170). In India specifically, sex work isn't a criminal offence but in case it is being done in a public place, it violates the section 7 in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956.

Sensitization of Society: The need of the hour

A move to sensitize society towards accepting sex work has started. The increasing number of countries which have legalized prostitution heralds a new change. As we've previously established, the sex worker industry continues to grow and is present in almost every country in existence, whether the government wants it or not. So, this leaves us to the question that if they have to exist, why not regulate them and make the trade safer not just in terms of health i.e. trying to minimize the transfer of sexually transmitted diseases, but monetary exploitation of the workers or even uplifting the general living conditions of these sex workers. Don't sex workers deserve the respect and social status which every other profession receives in the society? The end to the depiction of the sex industry as a taboo and replacing the same with a positive acceptance of it as any other industry, however, is yet to take its baby steps. The youth is asking the right questions. Whether their questions are considered substantial by society and are answered or not is a different story.


Krishangi Sinha

Krishangi Sinha

Journalism Graduate, Aspires to be a media and law professional


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