Prostitution as a mirror of society

I came across a blogpost rebutting a comment made on a previous blogpost on legitimizing prostitution, and I found that I disagree strongly enough to write this:

Go read that post first, because this one will be free flowing and not quote that post here. Then you might as well read my reply to a post by Taslima Nasreen that presents an argument similar to this one.

My main issue with debates on prostitution are the seeking of a universal stand on them – to legitimize or ban? I fail to see how in a world with such diversity, it is at all possible to make one rule that applies to all. The “ban prostitution” debate is going the “ban dance bars” debate and risks ruining countless lives through moral superciliousness.

Just to blow the theory that all prostitutes are forced, I know several who work as prostitutes by choice. Personally. Prostitutes actually also have unions and all. But let us assume that each and every prostitute in India is forced. Even then, if you look at the number of women in forced sex in the country, prostitutes wouldn’t be the majority. Married women would be. It is no joke that we are the fourth worst country in the world to be a woman in. It is most certainly not limited to prostitutes.

If secure alternatives were available for women seeking divorce, divorce rates would skyrocket. They already are in cities and states where women are socially powerful – like Kerala. That prostitutes are exploited could be turned into a witch hunt of prostitution, but the face is that innocent victims of rape were blamed for inviting the rape just as surely as prostitutes get abused. I differ that society drives women to prostitution. I think it is crippling poverty. Those prostitutes are also wives, mothers. They feed mouths. And we have no alternative employment to offer.

But that is also a secondary thing.

The main thing is personal autonomy. Force to sell sex and force to not sell sex, in my view are equal and opposite evils. For the woman’s rights to be upheld, she should have the choice. Will it be always enjoyable? Likely not. Just like each day at office isn’t enjoyable to those working in it. To ban prostitution on the basis of that is about as bizarre as banning you from a job because you don’t like it. You need money, you have skills, you contract to do a certain job. The reall question here is asked by frighteningly very few people. Who made the choice? It is terrifying about the state of human rights in our country that we have no concept of respecting choice, and even rescues involve moral judgments and imposed regimentation.

A bonded labourer at a construction site is no less exploited than a prostitute forced into sex. The author of the blogpost ought to do a survey with actual prostitutes offering them job as domestic workers or anything else suited to their skill levels in exchange for giving up prostitution. The results would be eye-opening. The fact of the matter is that most prostitutes are doing a job.

There are prostitutes working in good conditions who are not only well to do, but also enjoy the freedom of determining their work timings. On the contrary, many married women cannot escape sex and will get nothing for their efforts at home or in bed.

Does that mean all is well? No. Trafficking exists. It needs stopped. Human rights abuses exist. They need stopped. There needs to be human dignity promoted on all fronts. Be it tribals or prostitutes, farmers or school kids. Pushing prostitutes under a carpet will not fix that. There needs to be solid upholding of human rights in general.

If you uphold fundamental rights impeccably, that is most of what is needed. If your cops beat up a pregnant prostitute till she miscarries and opines that “Sex Workers cannot be mothers“, then the fault could be written off as an evil of prostitution, but the fact of the matter is that it is a crime allowed freely in the name of having a problem with prostitution. It is the same with many other things they face trouble with.

Why not address the social illegitimacy they face? Last month, a prostitute fell three floors while escaping with the client when his wife returned home unexpectedly. Few would hire a prostitute for other work anyway. Banning prositution would only turn her into a loose woman who could be forced into “free” [without money] sex. Surely it would help save more prostitutes from forced sex if they could openly say that their previous job was sex work and they are now looking to do something else? Without that, banning prostitution would only lead to starving women.

What happens with the millions of men who use the services of prostitutes, many of whom, according to the author [and all concerned] have very rough sex? What happens when they cannot buy the sexual services they want? Should a gullible innocent become their prey to save someone who does it willingly for money?

If prostitutes are free to choose, and if all were exploited, prostitution would die out anyway. No? So why object to choice? The power to choose own actions when they don’t harm another is the most intimate freedom we have. In my view, banning prostitution is about the same violation as forcing prostitution. The person matters. What does she want?

Note: There are also male prostitutes, but since a majority of them are female, this article uses “she”, “her”, etc

Vidyut

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut 

  9 comments for “Prostitution as a mirror of society

  1. May 6, 2012 at 8:08 am

    There are two categories of prostitutes (or what); 1. Domestic Worker offering such services for extra income and 2. Highly place corporate executive offering such thing for out of turn promotion (not for salary hike).

    By my definition any act of intercourse or any form of sex for any kind of consideration other than love and affection is prostitution.

  2. Sangitha
    May 6, 2012 at 6:06 am

    It is actually not a question of legitimize or ban.  Prostitutes aren’t doing anything illegal today in India and the post argues for that state to stay the same.  Pimps are and the whole ‘legalize’ debate will end up legitimizing people who profit from the prostitute without giving him/her the free choice.  The post clearly says when there is free choice, no one has any business judging another’s way of life.

    • May 6, 2012 at 7:54 am

      When you respect choice, pimping is also a profession. Is the evil pimping or exploitation? Without exploitation, a pimp is a mutually profitable agent for the prostitute.

      • Sangitha
        May 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm

         Hmm, just like thieving is a profession so long as no one steals from me.

        All pimps exploit.  The large hearted benevolent pimp just earning her/his wage is a Bollywood creation!

        • May 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm

          Comparing prostitution with thieving is immature. Thieving involves your actions harming another. A prostitute does not harm the client.

          I suggest that when making authoritative stands, it is useful to have the logic in place.

          As for all pimps exploiting, this is false. A prostitute needs to find clients. A pimp is not necessarily exploitative. It is either an ignorant or morally judgmental view to deem any pimping to be exploitative. If the prostitute wants clients and a pimp gets them, it is symbiotic. If you read the article responding to Taslima Nasreen, it links to a fairly excellent article following a pimp in the Caravan magazine – just to demolish that irritating habit of “all” you apply to people.

          People are individuals. There is no “all”

          • August 31, 2012 at 1:30 am


            Surely it would help save more prostitutes from forced sex if they could openly say that their previous job was sex work and they are now looking to do something else? Without that, banning prostitution would only lead to starving women.”

            Either you do not make any logic here or I fail to grasp it.
            Instead of legalizing prostitution, would providing alternative source of income, not be a better alternative?

        • May 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

          Further, if you follow the link to Taslima’s article, the comments have real life prostitutes arguing with her – referring to your belief that all prostitutes are exploited.

          • Sangitha
            May 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

            There’s enough evidence to show that 80% of prostitutes are exploited.  The word of the 20% who speak up (or whatever percentage who do have access to the internet) can’t represent them all – just like my voice does not speak for them.  For those who are happy doing what they do, great for them.  Not my business to have an opinion on what another does.  Where society turns a blind eye on crime, not speaking up isn’t acceptable.  Since prostitution is already legal in India, people have the choice to carry on as they wish.

            Am going to peacefully disagree with you.

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