You are on page 1of 32



A review of the laws related to prostitution makes it imperative for us to examine

the genesis of the institution as well as trafficking. Law emerges from and thrives on the
social edifice. It draws upon and expands thereafter. A study related to the emergence of
the law, its operation or reform in the law would remain incomplete in the absence of an
inadequate comprehension of the social structure and processes. It therefore becomes
important to analyse the socio-cultural and economic factors that have led to the growth
of prostitution. The terrain of language also impacts quite strongly upon the manner in
which a phenomenon is either eulogised or subjected to derision. After all it is also a
product of the collective human consciousness. One has to observe how this collectivity
operates in the case of women involved in prostitution.
There are various typologies of prostitution prevailing in India. The basic
difference among them largely depends upon the causes as well as sources of prostitution.
Is prostitution a voluntary act or is there an element of coercion? What are those
compulsions that lead a person into the profession? Delving into these important matters
would help throw a lot of light on the subject. It would also invariably lead one to a
discussion about child prostitution.
Once a woman enters the profession it is imperative to understand how it impacts
upon her health, psyche and other aspects of life. As AIDS has been acknowledged in
recent times as a major health hazard one has to see women in prostitution have been
effected by the anti-AIDS campaign. After all, these women constitute what is termed as
a high-risk group.

Problems With Nomenclature

The terms used to define women involved in prostitution are mostly derogatory in
nature. Whore, prostitute, randi, tawaif, vesya, bogam, sani and the like are some of the
base descriptions in use. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has observed:
“the existing terms used in various languages and dialects for the women is passed down
through tradition and evoke emotions and reactions that are derogatory, stigmatising and

discriminatory to the women...These terms reflect the dehumanised social treatment of
these women.”1
Some alternative terms have been mooted that are intended to accord these
women a sense of respectability and dignity, which they deserve like any other human
being. Commercial sex worker is a term universalised by the World Health Organisation.2 3
The use of the term ‘sex worker’ confers upon prostitution the status of an ‘industry’ and
the women involved in it as rendering services on par with labour service. This term has
wide currency among those who are protagonists of the legalisation of prostitution.
In all these terms primacy is accorded to the institution of prostitution rather than
the women concerned. Use of the term ‘women in prostitution’ might be appropriate. The
NCW also concurs. It states: “Women in prostitution is a term possibly congruent with
Indian realities and situations as it would indicate the primary focus on ‘women’ and also
depict the institution of prostitution as a separate existence.”

Women in prostitution are not a homogenous group, as is generally believed
except insofar as all of them offer their bodies in exchange of consideration. This
heterogeneity depends upon, among other things, factors that have led women to enter
into prostitution. It is also a pointer towards the causes, whether voluntary or involuntary.
The study draws substantially on the book published by the Central Social Welfare Board
on the topic of typologies.4 Some of the typologies are stated below:

1. Street Walkers: The streetwalkers may function independently or through pimps.

Generally affiliated to brothels, hotels, cinema halls, etc. these women are vulnerable to
attacks and pressures of both clients and the police, with little or no support to combat
them. They have no security and are time and again exploited economically, emotionally

1 Societal Violence on Women and Children in Prostitution, A report by the National Commission for
Women, 1995-1996, National Commission for women, 4, Deen Dayal Marg, New Delhi, p5.
2 Ibid, p5.
3 Ibid, p5.
4 Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, A Study by Central Social Welfare Board, compiled by K. K.
Mukherjee & Deepa Das, Samaj Kalyan Bhavan, B-12 Tara Crescent, Institutional Area, South of IIT, New

and sexually either by the clients or others.5 They avoid concentrating in particular areas
in order to escape the eyes of the law enforcing authorities. They have their unique
methods of soliciting clients.

2. Religious Prostitution: The terms commonly used for these prostitutes are ‘Jogini’ or
‘Devadasi’. In general, they entertain customers according to the wishes of the priests or
family head. In the event of men curtailing the relation, the priest or the head of the
family attaches them to other men. Thus, these women are constantly under the threat of
exploitation and lead a life of sexual slavery.6 It is a custom practiced in the Southern part
of India by the Scheduled Castes among the Hindus that worship Goddess Yellamma.
Dedication as a devadasi or the devadasi cult provides a license for prostitution with
religious sanction.

3. The Cage Brothel Prostitutes: These women are attached to a brothel, which has a
landlord who in turn rents the premises to a brothel keeper. The brothel keeper runs the
brothel and appoints a manager who supervises and keeps a watch on all the women,
pimps, procurers and henchmen. This is a unique practice reported in Bombay.7 The
caged prostitutes are basically minors, below 18 years of age. All earnings go to the
brothel keeper till such time that the brothel keeper’s investment made in procuring her
has been recovered. The brothel keepers do not release these girls as long as they get
regular and rich clients. Young girls and virgins are demand and their earnings
during the initial years are high.

4. Brothel Prostitutes: Such prostitutes stay and practice in brothels or brothel like outfits
operating under the norms of the brothel, which are set up by the people managing the
same. They are basically dependent on brothel keepers and pimps. They provide sexual
favours to their clients in exchange of money. A good amount of their earnings is shared
among various categories of persons including brothel keepers, pimps, etc.

5 Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, A Study by Central Social Welfare Board, Supra Note 4, p
6 Ibid, pl3.
7 Ibid, pi 4.

Unlike streetwalkers, brothel prostitutes are economically secure in the sense that
their clients cannot cheat them. These women are easily identifiable as they work through
established setups. The concentration of such prostitutes is considerably high in the
respective brothels. The clientele is mainly from the lower or lower middle class groups,
which include rickshaw pullers and labourers. These prostitutes also belong to low socio­
economic families. The number of the clients they entertain daily is quite high and the
localities where the brothels are situated are either densely populated or have a high
frequency of floating population.

5. Singing And Dancing Girls: This group of women does not always start or end with
sex. This is mostly prevalent in Northern India and the women are known as tawaifs.
These women have endeavoured a lot to keep the kathak dance tradition alive. While the
devadasi is wedded to God, these women are dedicated to dance and music. They turn to
prostitution only out of dire necessity. They normally start with singing and dancing to
entertain the clients and end with sexual favours. An important aspect here is that these
women are not entirely dependent on prostitution. They may or may not resort to
prostitution regularly. They may have pimps and contact persons and have access to a
part of the income along with the person who fetches them their clients. Unlike the
brothel prostitutes, the singing and dancing girls do have some degree of freedom in
terms of practicing prostitution. They are mainly drawn from the lower or middle class
groups. A majority of them operate through the prostitution prone areas whereas there are
a few who do so through brothels.

6. Barmaids: All barmaids do not indulge in prostitution but quite a few of these girls do
indulge in the practice after the bar is closed. Most women in this group maintain that the
management neither exploits them nor are they overtly harassed by customers.

7. Cinema/Theatre Girls: These women mostly operate in Bombay. They give ‘company’
to men and accompany them to cinema halls. They do not necessarily indulge in sexual
activities except when some men take them to hotels for the purpose after watching
movies. In such situations these women earn a little extra money.

8. Massage Parlors And Health Centre Attendants: They basically work clandestinely
under some garb. Like the singing and dancing girls, their work too does not begin and
end with sex. They either work in these setups on a full time or part time basis. These
women cater to clients of the middle and upper income groups and so have high incomes,
which they share with the person who fetches them a client. They may or may not be
solely dependant on prostitution. Women in this category are also from middle and upper
middle class families.

9. Independently Operating Prostitutes: They normally belong to the lower and lower
middle class groups of families and serve the clients of the same class. They may or may
not have pimps. Normally found in the highly congested areas of big cities like slums and
resettlement colonies, they have a unique modus operandi. Most of them are working
women and resort to prostitution regularly or intermittently as a .means of supplementing
their monthly income. Their earnings are quite low because of the type of clientele they

10. Call Girls: It is a comparatively recent phenomenon. It has been found that a good
number of call girls belong to upper middle class families. They may own apartments
with telephones and other amenities, wherein they practice the profession. They may also
go out to posh hotels and other places for the purpose of prostitution.

The typology of the women in prostitution throws light on the class structure that
operates within prostitution. The economic class that these women hail from largely
determines the financial benefit or security that accrues to the women in prostitution. The
lesser fortunate also get entangled in the web of law, while the richer among them often
go unscathed. Needless to say, the financial position of the women also provides them
legal security.

11. Mail Order Brides: This class of women in prostitution does not exist in India.
Entertainment girls, hospitality girls and massage girls are some of the typologies present
in other parts of the world. It is estimated that there are at least 50,000 Filipino mail order

brides in the U.S. alone.8 The buyers are most often older white men who are on the
lookout for women as servants and sex partners. The agencies- that recruit and then sell
the brides are not sleazy hole-in-the-wall places. They are legitimate business. A
Princeton University MBA runs one of the biggest - Cherry Blossom - which has its
headquarters in Hawaii.9

12. Hitch Hiking Prostitutes: They basically operate on roadsides of the national, and
State highways mainly, but not only, of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. They
usually serve the truck drivers and fun seekers, moving in trucks and lorries. They
operate on a temporary and casual basis, often on contract, thereby bringing in an element
of the call-girl system, mostly under the guidance of an elderly prostitute or a brothel

Causes For Prostitution

There are several causative factors that lead a girl or woman into prostitution. The
Central Social Welfare Board opines that more than one single factor contributes to their
entry into prostitution. Some of these are stated below. They have been broadly classified
into economic causes, socio-cultural causes, psychological causes and other causes.

Economic Causes
Economic distress and poverty are one of the major contributory factors for the
growth of prostitution. Lin Lap Chew of the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women
in her submission to the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) observes
that: “trafficking is an issue which conflates with a number of other issues: e.g. labour
migration for domestic work and work in the sex industry, informal labour, commercial
marriage brokerage.”*11

8 Judith Mirkinson, Red Light, Green Light: The Global Trafficking Of Women, www.penet.
htmlpenet.html, plO.
9 Ibid, pi 6.
10 Dr K.K.Mukheijee, Girl Child Prostitution in India (Policies and Programmes), Sponsored by: The
National Commission for Women, New Delhi & Organised by: Gram Niyojan Kendra, Ghaziabad, July,
1997, p.21
11 Lin Lap Chew, Foundation Against Trafficking in Women, m.o. Global Alliance Against Traffic in
Women (GAATW), www.penet. htmlpenet.html, p4.

Judith Markinson, member of the Editorial Board of Breakthrough, a political
journal states: “Entertainment girls, hospitality girls, prostitutes, massage girls, it all
means the same thing. They’re part of the globalisation of the world’s economy. Goods to
be shipped across borders, through one airport to another, sometimes overland.
Commodities in a million dollar industry. Only the products are women and children
being sold for profit. We’re talking here .about international sex trafficking.”
The Amnesty International observes: “Trafficking in human beings, is the third
largest source of profit for international organised crime, after drugs and arms, with a
yearly turnover of billions of dollars. The U.N. believes that four billion people are
trafficked every year....”13
Women are recruited on false pretences, coerced, transported, bought and sold for
a range of exploitative purposes. Among these are forced labour, including forced
domestic labour, and sexual exploitation, including sex tourism and forced marriage.
Some are completely duped about the nature of the work they will be doing; some are
told half- truths about the work and are then forced to carry it out; some are aware of the
nature of the work but not of the conditions in which they will perform it, and see no
viable economic alternative.14
There are several categories of trafficking. The first and largest is that of the
transnational sex industry, international prostitution. There is also the mail-order bride
industry. The other main category is that of exporting workers in exchange for foreign
capital to be sent back home.. In the case of women, these are usually domestic workers or
nurses. All the women perform services that are deemed necessary and vital to the host
countries. Yet they live on the margins, more often than not, invisible.
The traffic is that of poor women to richer men. The flow of poor women from
the South to North is the largest, although now there is also an increase of women from
the former Eastern Bloc. The most frequent destinations for the women are Europe, North
America, Japan, Australia and Middle East.”15

12 Judith Mirkinson, Supra Note 8, p 10

13 Broken bodies, shattered minds Torture and ill treatment of Women, Amnesty International Publications,
1 Easton Street, LondonWC1X ODW, UK, 2001, pi 6.
14 ibid, pi 6.
15Judith Mirkinson, pi 1.

Mirkinson also states: “ the selling has become more organised and systematised.
It’s the scope, money and reasons involved that make this business one that has reached
catastrophic proportions.”16

Discussing the trafficking of Filipinos in the name of mail order brides to the U.S.
she observes: “Part of the economic plan developed by the IMF and World Bank for the
Philippines (and other countries) during the late 60’s and 70’s was the idea of labour.
export. A Philippine Overseas Employment Agency was established. In the 70’s this
involved mostly men working in construction in the Middle East, but by the late 70’s and
80’s the majority of Filipinos working outside the country were women.”17
The Sex Worker’s Manifesto drafted by the Mahila Samanvaya Committee, an
organisation espousing the cause of legalisation of prostitution in India, states: “Women
take up prostitution for the same reason as they may take up any other livelihood option
available to them. Our stories are not fundamentally different from the labourer, from
Bihar who pulls a rickshaw in Calcutta, or the worker from Calcutta who works part time
in a factory in Bombay. Some of us get sold into the industry. After being bonded to the
madam who has bought us for some years we gain a degree of independence within the
sex industry. A whole lot of us end up in the life unwillingly, without understanding all
the implications of being a prostitute fully.”
“But when do most of us women have access to choice within or outside the
family? Do we become casual domestic labourer willingly? Do we have a choice about
who we want to marry and when? The choice is rarely real for most women, particularly
poor women.”18
Economic distress unsettles the rural and urban equilibrium. Migration of labour
force to the urban areas leads to an increase in prostitution. Displacement of the adivasis
and their migration to urban areas is another factor. These adivasi women, almost all of
them illiterate, are in a very gullible and helpless situation. The NCW states: “The most
affected group in India are the indigenous, so called tribal populations, who are being
deprived of their ancestral places of stay and livelihood... Tribals, who till 50 to 75 years

lsJudith Mirkinson, Supra Note 8, pi 1

17Ibid, pi 6
18 Indian Sex Workers’ Rights Manifesto- Calcutta 1997: Mahila Samanwaya Committee,
penet.htmlpenet.html, p32.

ago, had zero prevalence of STDs, are today a constituency with possibly the highest
incidence of STDs, compared to mainstream population groups.”19
Roma Debabrata, Reader, University of Delhi and Member Core Committee,
South East Asian Action Plan on Prevention of Trafficking observes: “State sponsored
‘destructive’ development projects like big dams, mines, industries and power projects
are creating havoc in the day to day lives of adivasis, dalits and especially their
womenfolk. These people are deprived of their resource base - land, forest, rivers etc.
Displacement pushes them to the cities where children are forced to become bonded
labour. Migrant tribal child labour has been treated as commodities, which can be bought
and sold at a very low price. The lives of girl children and women are miserable. They
become labour as prostitutes. At the altar of progress the self-dignity and identity of
adivasi girl children are being sacrificed for the development of the nation. Children are
forced to shoulder the burdens of subsistence. In some cases their parents push them to
the flesh trade.”20
“Low yielding agricultural land, lack of skills, small or no land holdings, no
alternate sources of employment; all result in hapless impoverishment.”21 “The pertinent
fact is that a third of the 378 districts in India are drought prone and two thirds of the girls
and women inducted into the trade hail from these regions.”
The NCW observes: “With the gradual erosion of feudal powers and replacement
by the centralised industrial production, a vigorous migration has been supported
throughout the country. With no facilities for industrial labour to house and live with
their families, with patterns of progressively delayed marriage and protracted schooling
unmatched to the maturation of the sexual drive, there is increased demand for ‘paid’ and
convenient sex.”23
According to the report on the State of World Population, 1997, commercial sex
is increasing in the less developed nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America, and in

19 Societal Violence On Women & Children in Prostitution, Supra Note 1, pi8.

20 Roma Debabrata, “Lost Childhood”, A first study of child prostitution in Delhi, Commissioned by
National Commission for Women, 4, Deen Dayal Marg, ND, 1997, pi.
21 The Velvet Blouse Sexual Exploitation of Children. NCW Publication, 4, Deen Dayal Marg, ND, 1997,
2 Ibid, p9.
23 Societal Violence on Women & Children in Prostitution, Supra Note 1, pi 1.

Eastern Europe because of high unemployment, rural poverty, growing inequalities in
wealth and increased demand.24

It also observes: “The continued migration of men seeking employment in big

cities like Delhi and Bombay has greatly expanded the flesh trade. When rural poor
migrate to cities, traffickers take full advantage of their absolute poverty and lure their
children into this, profession with promises of money and jobs. Often families are left
behind in villages while men folk who migrate to industrial centres, satisfy their sexual
desires by visiting brothels thereby increasing the demand for girl prostitutes.”25
“Employment in the sex industry is often a lucrative and attractive option to many
people who are attempting to improve their lives and support their families through
working in the international labour market. Some migrants are aware that they will be
working in the sex industry; others are deceived about the nature of the work. It is
important to emphasise that deception and exploitation are not limited to the recruitment
process. Some enjoy relatively ‘good’ conditions with a great deal of control over their
working situation. Others are subject to exploitation, and may even work in situations
similar to slavery.”26
According to a statement of the Veshya AIDS Muquabla Parishad (VAMP) and
Sangram, Sangli: “Globalisation and economic liberalisation is further breaking up our
communities and forcing us to accept the sale of our very young in the urban industrial
centres. Movement in search of work is not new for us; the problem however is the
criminalisation of the trade, which is forcing us to accept debt bondage, forced labour and
slavery-like practices. Consequently, we find ourselves in the trap of criminal syndicates
in our search for work.”
“The sex industry is believed to be growing in response to current economic
pressures. The agricultural and informal sectors which traditionally provided female

24 Roma Debabrata, Supra Note 20, pi.

25 Velvet Blouse, Supra Note 21, plO.
26 http:/www.
27 A statement from Women in Prostitution, From: Veshya AIDS Muquabla Parishad (VAMP) and
Sangram, Sangli, documented in Voices, Information Package on Sex Work, prepared by Jagori, Women’s
Training, Documentation and Communication Centre, C-54, Top Floor, South Extension,
Part -II, ND-110049,2001.

employment are being squeezed by the Structural Adjustment Programme, and the
industry is perceived as having low entry qualifications and high returns.”28
Ms Jyotsna Chatteqee, Associate Director, Joint Women’s Programme states:
“Male domination, the class and caste structures and effects of industrialisation have led
to this commercialisation of the old profession. Trafficking in women has today become a
highly profitable industry. Our studies on various traditional groups have proved that a
large number of prostitutes are descendants of old traditional and religious groups like
There are, however, many new additions from other sections into this profession.
These are women who are victims of social oppression and poverty. Due to the lack of
continuous and adequate employment, families are compelled to allow their women and
girls to get into prostitution. Some even sell their daughters and wives for want of money.
Wives of bonded labourers are forced to prostitute themselves to free the family from
indebtedness. In some areas girls can earn their dowries (money needed at the time of
marriage) through this profession.
The report of the Indian Council for Social Science Research on “The Status of
Women” states that recent additions to these groups are from middle class families driven
by economic necessity and in a few cases by their desire to keep up appearances of
affluence. Even educated women are found in their ranks because of difficulties in
obtaining other types of employment.
The increasing incidence of prostitution in metropolitan cities, urban areas and
market and business centres is the result of the growing demand for prostitutes and lack
of employment opportunity to avoid deprivation on the one hand, and poverty on the
other. The increase in tourism and the lure of high profits from this traffic trade has
encouraged the exploitation and seduction of women from poor and adivasi communities
and even other sections of the society who have never before practiced this profession but
have become victims because of poverty.
Today, poverty, illiteracy and backwardness are the main reasons for the increase
in trafficking of women and children, which can be categorised as (1) Voluntary

28, Information Package on Sex Work, prepared by Jagori, Women’s Training, Documentation and
Communication Centre, Supra Note 27, p 24.

prostitution - for lack of any other means of livelihood. In most cases, families are aware
of it and often promote it. (2) Forced prostitution - where women are forced into

profession through religious and customary practices, trafficking and seduction.

Tourism And Trafficking

Tourism is another important economic factor. With the advent of tourism in the
late 19th century, the trafficking in human beings became an international phenomenon.
The NCW observes: “Since the process of tourism is primarily economic in nature it
provides developing countries the perfect opportunity to deal with the balance of
payments issue. Statistics such as total tourist arrivals in India in 1995 at 12 million and
foreign exchange earnings from tourism at Rs 6509 crores are hard to ignore.
Inducements are abundant for promoting prostitution. Net effect of sex imbalances,
therefore, created by migration of labour, traveling businessmen and tourists lead to an
increase in the demand for women and children. This, in turn, drives the age of victims
lower and along with girls; it pulls into the net male children as well.”
“The market, then, is sustained. Pimps, procurers and brothel owners maintain
constant supply. They willingly pander to the fancies of the market gods through
unscrupulous acts of alluring, abducting, pornography and trafficking in human beings.
Apart from sex tourism, tourism has an indirect effect upon promotion of prostitution.
The mimicry effect of rich tourists is seen on locale as well. Rich tourists, demonstrating
lavish lifestyles, influence young people to go after easy money, a fact that further
aggravates the problem. If one goes by the experience of countries like Thailand,
Philippines and Sri Lanka, India appears to be on the brink of a massive free fall into
organised tourist flesh trade. By the year 2000, tourism will become the world’s largest
industry. As the crisis of commercial sexual abuse assumes global proportions,
prostitution will become a multinational enterprise.”30
If the conditions of commercial sex victims are horrendous, then the entry of sex
tourism in India can ring the death knell for the thousands of children who will be forced
into sexual slavery. In most cases of child sexual abuse, the victim is a female child

29 Punekar S.D. and Kamala Rao, A Study of Prostitutes in Bombay, Lalvani Publishing House, 210, DN
Road, Bombay-1, Ilnd Edition, 1967, p845.
30Velvet Blouse, Supra Note 21, plO.

around the age of puberty. The advent of sex tourism means that the age of the victim
becomes even lesser. Also, it is a well known fact that male children are sexually abused
on a routine basis but the scale of this abuse is certain to escalate with the increase in
tourism.31 .

A glimpse into the background of Thai sex tourism would be instructive. The
growth and organisation of prostitution in Thailand is directly linked to the presence of
US troops whose soldiers came for rest and relaxation (R&R) to places like Bangkok
during the Vietnam War. Prostitution flourished along the perimeters of US bases.32

Armed Conflicts And Prostitution

Women are apprehensive of changes in the political regimes, which are often
accompanied by harsh and punitive actions against them. War, military operations or
armed conflicts lead to the growth of trafficking and prostitution. The war in Vietnam is a
recent example.
Judith states: “The war in Vietnam brought a military buildup in Asia that
ironically proved fortuitous to many countries’ economies. Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the
Philippines and Okinawa built up a burgeoning sex industry outside the bases. Rest and
recreation actually created new cities and added much needed capital to the overall
economy of each nation. It is estimated that by the mid 80’s the sex industries around the
bases in the Philippines had generated more than $500 million. At the end of the war in
Vietnam, Saigon had 500,000 prostituted women - this is equal to the total population of
Saigon before the war.”
“Many of these countries developed policies and passed legislation to aid the sex
business and “support the boys”. Thailand, for example, passed the Entertainment Act,
which included an incredible policy called “Hired Wife Services”. By the mid 70’s there
were 800,000 prostituted Thai women. Men were convinced that practices that might be
frowned upon or illegal in their own countries would be available in places like Bangkok

31 Judith Mirkinson, Supra Note 8, plO

32 Judith Mirkinson, ibid, pi2.
33 Societal Violence on Women & Children in Prostitution, Supra Note 1, p20.

and Manila. This has become true for both heterosexual and homosexual men, for the sale
of young boys is also big business.”34

Socio-Cultural Causes
The Central Social Welfare Board (hereafter referred as CSWB) has categorised
socio-cultural causes in the following manner:
i) Ill-treatment by parents.
ii) Social customs like devadasi system.
iii) Desertion by spouse.
iv) Family tradition or involvement of family members in prostitution.
v) Widowhood and restrictions on widow remarriage.
vi) Social or personal reasons, e.g., low position of women in society, inability to
arrange marriage, violation by incest etc.
vii) Bad company and neighbourhood.
viii) Connivance of parents or husband.
ix) Lack of sex education and influence of media.
x) Absence of recreational facilities.

The CSWB observes: “The causes under the socio-cultural category are more in
number than the others. It is fair to say that socio-cultural factors contribute in a major
way in the population of prostitution vis-a-vis the other factors...Detailed analysis shows
that desertion by spouse is a major cause in the socio-cultural ones as poverty is among
economic causes. These two contribute to the maximum number of women’s entry into
prostitution (as per the findings of the studies)”
The traditional cultural practice of dedication of girls to the goddesses in temples
has been in existence for ages. As these norms gained the social sanction of feudal
societies, prostitution as a system became institutionalised. Even though many states have
banned this practice, various report’s indicate that this dedication still continue on a

Judith Mirkinson, Supra Note 8, p!2.
Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, Supra Note 4,1996.
Ibid, p43.

diminished scale, such as the Jogini, Devadasi and Basavi systems in Orissa, Andhra
Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.37

“The devadasi system does not only have religious significance but is also deeply
entrenched in the caste system. Bedia, Dombra, Kalavanthu, Bogam, Mahar communities
are considered as the lowest rung in the traditional caste layers in Indian society.38
The NCW observes that these women, victims of the caste structure, have not
been included in the dalit emancipation processes. It states: “Neither do they have access
to the privileges accruing to other dalit movements nor do they count in the future agenda
of dalits in mainstream struggles for historical and social justice.”39 It also states that
there is a failure of ideology. Despite the last four decades of vigorous social and political
ideologies in India ranging from protection of rural and native environment and
populations, trade union movements, women’s emancipation and cultural ideologies of
different kinds; these women continue to escape the reflection of activists and

The NCW also states that primitive social attitudes prevail towards ‘single’
women and ‘separated’ women, girl children, young women and dalit women.41 It
observes: “Prostitution is a social product created through various streams of political,
social and cultural order. For instance, one of the main causes for increase in demand for
young girls is the myth that intercourse with a virgin can cure a man off sexually
transmitted diseases and rejuvenate him. Such misconceptions have led to the growth of
child prostitution. The children are being sold at younger and younger ages. This is
fuelled both by the thrill of child sex and the fear of AIDS. This dovetails into the belief
that the younger the child, the more likely he or she will be a virgin and therefore won’t
be infected with AIDS. Thus girls and boys as young as eight years are being sought and
provided throughout the world for their sexual services.”42
Judith states: “It is now becoming commonplace to see fathers from Eastern
Europe bringing their young daughters to Western European cities.” She quotes a

37 Societal Violence of Women & Children in Prostitution, Supra Note :1, p 17

38 Ibid.
39 Ibid, pi 2.
40 Ibid, pl2.
41 Ibid, pi 1.
42 Velvet Blouse, Supra Note 21, pi 1.


doctor’s statement reported in the New York Times: “One father came with his 12 year
old daughter. She was terrorised and in terrible pain. I asked him why he did it. ‘First of
all we are very poor. She is still too young to get pregnant... she is very young... she will
She observes that the issues involved are both complex and overwhelming for
they touch on one of the basic foundations around which society has been organised: The
relationship between women and men.43
Amnesty International on the other hand states: “Women may not be able to
obtain redress for a variety of reasons. Many arise because women are deprived of their
economic, social and cultural rights.”
“Economic dependence and inadequate welfare provision in many parts of the
world force women to bear continued abuse. Abused women often have no where to go,
no money to sustain themselves or their children, and no funds to seek legal counsel in
order to pursue redress...”
“Domestic violence does not only damage the body. It can also undermine or
destroy a women’s self esteem and her will to resist abuse and seek redress. The
subordination of women to men is still widely accepted in all cultures, even by women,
and presumed to be authorised by ‘natural order’, religion or tradition... The failure of
the State to ensure women’s enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights further
hinders their access to redress for acts of violence and facilitates continuing torture and ill
Amnesty states: “Torture of women is rooted in a global culture which denies
women equal rights with men, and which legitimise the violent appropriation of women’s
bodies for individual gratification dr political ends...However, for all the gains that
women around the world have made in asserting their rights, women worldwide still earn
less than men, own less property than men, and have less access to education,
employment and health care. Pervasive discrimination continues to deny women full
political and economic equality with men.”

Judith Mirkinson, Supra Note 8, pi3.
Broken Bodies shattered Minds Torture and ill-treatment of women, Supra Note l.

“Violence against women feeds off this discrimination and serves to reinforce
it...Violence against women is compounded by discrimination on grounds of race,
ethnicity...sexual multiple discrimination further restricts women’s choices increase their
vulnerability to violence and makes it even harder for them to gain redress., .much of the
violence faced by women in everyday life is at the hands of the people with whom they
share their lives, whether as members of their family, of their community or as their
employers. There is an unbroken spectrum of violence that women face at the hands of
men who exert control over them.45
In the women’s response quoted by NCW it is stated: “Most of us are survivors of
“incest” by our family members. In several cases denial and shame has made us enter sex
work, our family members had prevented us from even whispering about this out of fear
of social ostracisation and stigma that they may have provoked the male member by
saying ‘you must have done something to invite this.”46
Societal attitude toward adultery or rape are also factors. Men’s adultery is
socially accepted but women are condemned if they have a relationship outside their
marriage.47 A social taboo looms large in the case of a rape victim. She becomes a misfit
in the ‘mainstream’ social order. Where women deviates from the prescribed sexual
dictate, options to remain in the mainstream social order reduce.

Psychological Causes
Apart from economic and socio-cultural factors, observers have also identified
psychological factors as contributing to sustenance of this institution. Even without
compulsion some women join this course of life.
The CSWB states that desire for physical pleasure and luxurious life, increasing
craze for money, dejection and love of fun are some of the reasons for women to join this.
institution voluntarily.
It also identifies kidnapping and abduction, delay in rendering services,
urbanisation and resulting migration, ignorance and illiteracy as other legal and

45 Broken Bodies shattered Minds Torture and ill-treatment of women, p 2.

46 Societal Violence on Women & Children in Prostitution, Supra Note 1, pl5.
47 Ibid
48 Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, Supra Note 4, p42.

administrative causes for the growth of this institution. This is a pointer towards the
failure of the State to provide legal redress.49
Amnesty International points out: “Governments around the world have failed to
fulfill their duty to secure legal redress for abused women. Gender discrimination in this
area includes the persistence of inadequate laws against abuses and institutional failings
on the part of the criminal justice process, including the police and the judiciary. Often
these findings mutually reinforce each other.50
Punekar S.D. and Kamala Rao observe: “She (the women in prostitution) is
therefore the result of the action and interaction of the various forces in her life, the
product of her cumulated experience and we have already seen that the background
factors that go into the making of a prostitute are several and divergent. They vary in
their importance according to the intensity of the impact they make on the individual and
they assume a major or contributory role relatively. It is difficult to pinpoint a single
cause and say that that was the most important cause that led the respondent into
prostitution. It was observed that in most cases, while one cause was mainly responsible
for the predisposition or vulnerability of the respondent, another cause was directly
responsible for making her a prostitute.”51

Punekar and Kamala Rao identified 26 causes of prostitution classified into six
groups, according to their nature and origin.52 They are:
Group I. 1. Death of father/ mother/ guardian/ husband/ relative.
Group II. 2. Poverty.
3. Destitution.
Group III 4. Ill-treatment by father/ mother/ guardian/ husband/ relatives.
5. Neglect by father/mother/guardian/husband/relatives.
6. Otherwise unhappy family relations.
7. Unfaithfulness of the husband.
8. Desertion by the husband.
9. Otherwise unhappy marriage.

49 Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, Supra Note 4, p 43.

50 Broken Bodies Shattered Minds, Supra Note 13, p26.
51 Punekar S D & Kamala Rao, Supra Note 29, p85.
52 Ibid, p86.

Group IV 10. Connivance of parents/ husband/ relatives.
11. Introduced by parents/ husband/ relatives.
12. Bad influence.
13. Deception.
14. Kidnapping..
15. Tradition or hereditary.
16. Environmental influence.
Group V 17. Sexual urge and sex curiosity.
18. Illicit sexual relations.
19. Illegitimate pregnancy.
20. Rape.
Group VI 21. Desire for easy life.
22. Love of adventure.
23. Hatred of marriage.
24. Ignorance.
25. Low moral values.
24. Desire for revenge.

Punekar and Rao state that Group IV causes form the largest group of
contributory causes and as major predisposing causes, while Group El causes are .the
largest in number.

Sources Of Prostitution
An elaborate network exists to keep the supply of women in prostitution constant.
There is a regular mobility of women and children from their places of origin to the
places of operation.
The cities of Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad and Madras are the major
destinations of these women. These cities have established ‘red light’ areas. Prostitution
in the red light areas is practiced openly in an organised manner for commercial purposes
through the brothels.

But other prostitution-prone areas also exist in the. metropolitan cities and other
urban centres. The CSWB report states that every part of a city has the potential of
becoming a prostitution prone area in terms of operation. This does not rule out the
possibilities of greater prevalence of prostitution in some areas having typical
characteristics as in slums and other congested areas.53
Some of the salient features of such potential areas could be:
a) . Presence of large sections of male migrants.
b) . Presence of males, either single or living without families.
c) . Absence of adequate civic and recreational amenities.
d) . Population belonging to the lower socio economic order.
e) . Population of heterogeneous nature though some degree of homogeneity among the
groups may exist.
f) . Congestion and shortage of living space.

The CSWB is of the opinion that congested areas inhabited by males of lower
socio-economic groups, lacking basic amenities have all the potentialities of emerging as
a prone area in terms of place of operation.54
The identification of prone areas in terms of origin is important in the context of
controlling prostitution and its prevention.
The CSWB states that women in prostitution in India belong to both India and
across the border, particularly the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and
Tibetan China. Movement across these borders is frequent and easy.55
The CSWB has categorised the places of origin into high supply zone, nominal
supply zone and no supply zones. According to its study the States of Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are high supply zones. Bihar,
Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have supplied the highest numbers of women
within the nominal supply zones. Goa, Meghalaya and Orissa are the lowest within the
nominal supply zone.56

Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, Supra Note 4, p27.

The CSWB study reveals that among the high supply zones Andhra Pradesh tops
the list both in terms of dispersal and numbers. Barring Calcutta, all the other five cities
have some representation of women from Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly besides their
concentration in Hyderabad, women from Andhra Pradesh seem to be drawn in large
numbers to Delhi.57
According to the study: “Compared to the other States, Andhra Pradesh has the
lowest female literacy rate and per capita income, which may be the contributory factors
for so many women from the State joining prostitution. Nothing can be conclusively said
about this.”58
Factors contributing to the mobility of women for recruitment into prostitution
could be:
1. Proficient trafficking network.
2. Some linkages with women and others who are associated with prostitution in these
3. Good railway connection and an overall well developed communication system.
4. Representation of the said State in the total population of the concerned city being

Other general contributing factors may be:

1. Dedication of girls as jogins/ devadasis, particularly in the Southern States.
2. Spread of industrialisation and urbanisation to rural migration.

The zero supply zones include Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram,
Nagaland, Sikkim, Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal
Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.59
The CSWB states that the following might be tangible reasons for some of the
States and Union territories to be low and zero supply zones. They are as follows:
1. High levels of female literacy e.g. Kerala, Mizoram and Nagaland.
2. Prevalence of matriarchal society as in Meghalaya and Kerala.

57 Prostitution in Metropolitan Cities of India, Supra Note 4, p36

58 Ibid, p37.
59 Ibid, p 36.

3. Predominantly tribal dominated areas like the North Eastern States and Sikkim.
4. Disturbed areas like Jammu, Kashmir, Punjab and Assam. -
5. Economic development of the States like Punjab and Haryana.
6. Distance and problems of accessibility as in the case of Andaman and Nicobar
islands which is far from the main land.
The NCW observes that special trafficking times exist throughout the year
between June and August when there is food scarcity or in the festival months of
September and October. Harvest times are best for recruiting new girls as poverty at this
time is at the highest.60
S. K. Ghosh states: “Trafficking in women and girls has become a highly
organised, inter-State and even international business. Kidnapped or abducted women are
usually sold for prostitution or marriage. A gang of kidnappers usually consists of both
males and females but the female kidnappers constitute more than 75 per cent and these
gangs operate everywhere, in the countryside as well as in cities and towns...The gangs
of kidnappers have their undercover methods of transporting girls and shuttle them, to
and fro, from city to city, to minimize the risk of their being rescued. Not infrequently
respectable looking men and women escort the kidnapped girls so that they cannot be
checked or interrogated by the police. At the head of each gang there are some master­
minds of the underworld. They have their agents at the bar, in the courts and in
newspaper offices; they have friends in every political organisation, and plenty of funds
for those who can protect them from the law.”61
He further states: “ There are markets in some States where women and girls from
9 to 35 years of age, many of them procured from Bangladesh and Nepal also, are
auctioned like cattle, even today. Not infrequently they are stripped of their clothes and
examined before payments are made, which varies between 2000 to 10,000 rupees or
even more. Surprisingly, women and girls from some rescue homes have also been sold
in these flesh markets. Annually, thousands of women and girls from Bangladesh and
Nepal enter India through different check posts on the border and are dispersed in

60 Velvet Blouse, Supra Note 21, pi 8.

61 Ghosh S. K,, Women and Crime, Ashish Publishing House, 8/81, Punjabi Bagh, ND- 26,1993, pl33.

brothels in different parts of the country. Even they are sold to agents for marketing them
to Pakistan and Arab countries.”62
He quotes a disquieting news item published in the Bengali newspaper
‘Bartaman’ dated December 14, 1986 from Patna which discloses that from eight districts
of Chota Nagpur area (Bihar) about 10,000 adivasi women have gone untraced and are
suspected to have been sold into prostitution.
Ghosh also quotes a report presented by Dr I.S. Gilada of the Skin and V.D.
Department, J.J. Hospital, Bombay and Honorary Secretary, Indian Health Organisation
(I.H.O.) that migrants account for 90 per cent of the population of prostitutes and that
they mostly come from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, West
Bengal and migrants from Bangladesh and Nepal.64
Dr Gilada observes: “Most of them have either been abducted, sold by their
parents or husbands or have been victims of rape or incest. About 25 percent of all
prostitutes have been abducted from their native towns or villages, either forcibly or lured
with promises of a job in the city or marriage, by a procurer, who is normally a
“Women of the Dhed caste of Gujarat, of the Mhar tribe of the Deccan became
common prostitutes and were found in the lowest class of brothels in Bombay
city...Custom of prostituting is also followed by the Hamis, the Bedars and the Mang
Garindas who were generally speaking professional robbers and thieves”.66 “In Bihar and
Uttar Pradesh there was a certain Naik Caste, the women of which frequently became
prostitutes known as tawaifs and are much in demand for dancing and concubinage.”67
“Prostitution through marriage is the bizarre specialty of Pune, where men marry girls
from extremely poor families and then sell them off to brothel keepers at a high price.
Apart from husbands there are girls who have been sold by their fathers or uncles, usually
having been raped”68

Ghosh S. K, Supra Note 63, p!33.
Ibid, p 134.
Ibid, pi 45
Ibid, pi 46.
Ibid, pl47.

Human Rights Watch, Asia estimates that there are 20,000 Nepalese girls in the
brothels of Mumbai.69

International Sex Trafficking

Judith Mirkinson states: “The number of women trafficked is staggering...its
estimated that from one to two million women and children are trafficked each year.
During a 1991 Conference of Southeast Asian Women’s Organisations, it was estimated
that 30 million women have been sold worldwide since the mid 70s and over 100,000
women are shipped each year to Japan to serve in indentured servitude in bars and
brothels. Thousands of young women and girls are sent from to Nepal to India and Burma
to Thailand. In the past year, 200,000 women have been sent from Bangladesh to
Pakistan. Young women have been found in China on their way to the brothels of
Bangkok. Women from Latin America and Africa are turning up in Thailand and Europe,
just as those from Latin America and the Caribbean are shipped to the U.S., although a
real study of the trafficking into the U.S. and Canada hasn’t been done. These numbers
mostly exclude the issue of internal trafficking for “domestic consumption...”
“The traffic is that of poor women to richer men. The flow of poor women from
the South to North is the largest, although. Now there is also an increase of women from
the former Eastern bloc. The most frequent destinations for the women are Europe, North
America, Japan, Australia and the Middle East.
“The women come from rural areas and city slums. They are either recruited as
tourist workers or are often kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. Others are simply
sold outright. In some countries there are actual markets where women are sold in the

Amnesty states: “Trafficking in human beings is the third largest source of profit
for international organised crime, after drugs and arms, with a yearly turnover of billions
of dollars. The UN believes that four million people are trafficked every year...A US

69 Roma Debabrata, Supra Note 20, p2.

70 Judith Mirkinson, Supra Note 8, pi 1.

Department of State report released in 2000 stated that between 45,000 and 50,000
women and children were trafficked into the USA each year. A nationwide crackdown on
trafficking in China led to the reported rescue of more than 10,000 women and children
within the first month. Officials said that the women were to be sold into prostitution in
the south of the country or into forced marriage with farmers.”
According to the report on the State of World Population, 1997, commercial sex
is increasing not only in less developed countries because of various economic reasons
coupled with increasing demand, but the problem also existed in the richer nations of
North America, Great Britain and other European States.72

Child Prostitution
Child prostitution as such needs special mention, since a sexually exploited child
faces a unique set of problems that an adult may not. Abuse of the children in prostitution
is by itself distinct and horrendous. It is particularly brutal with children facing severe
physical and mental trauma while being initiated into prostitution and later.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly lays down the role of the State
in the protection of the child in Art 34, where it notes that the State will undertake to
protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Art 35 and 36
state that all appropriate national and bilateral and multilateral measures will be taken by
the State to prevent abduction, sale and traffic in children, coercion to engage in unlawful
sexual activity, and all forms of exploitation such as prostitution or pornographic
performances. It also states that all children must receive the chance to discover their
identity and realize their self worth in a safe and supportive environment. But when a
child is sexually exploited, what is denied is his or her childhood.
A report on the National Consultation on Child Prostitution held in November
1995 by Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), End of Child Prostitution in
Asian Tourism (ECPAT) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency
Fund states: “The very basis of the child sex industry- the designation of a child as a
commodity for sale and purchase, without his or her own will - demeans and

71 Broken Bodies and Shattered Minds, Supra.Note 13, p 16.

72 Roma Debabrata, Supra Note 20, pi.

dehumanises the child...The sexual exploitation of children does not occur in a vacuum
but involves a more widespread exploitation of children, sexual or otherwise. Poverty and
ignorance are the underlying causes of this worldwide phenomenon, as families rely on
their youngest members to contribute to the household income. The child in prostitution
is a victim of pedophiles who pose as tourists and of traffickers who force them into this
The report further observes: “Child prostitution is a term in popular usage but it is
not an accurate term because it implies consent. And the child does not consent. The
child is victimised into sexual slavery.”74 The entry of a child into prostitution does not,
most of the time, take place voluntarily. Children are roped into it either by abduction or
kidnapping. In the second mode, the prostitute mother/ pimps/ brothel owners themselves
initiate the female children of existing prostitutes into the flesh trade.73
Priti Patkar, a social worker, who works among the sex workers in Kamatipura
tells about the girl bom to a prostitute, as being welcomed by everybody. “ She is very
much wanted because she is a source of security for the mother in her old age, a source of
income to the brothel keeper, and to the money lender, she is his pawn.”
P.C Sharma, Joint Director, CBI states: “Children are the most vulnerable part of
any social group and need the greatest social care. They can be exploited, ill-treated and
directed into undesirable channels by anti-social elements, for their innocence and
Dr K K Mukheijee observes that a girl prostitute’s life is a life of hard labour,
exploitation and virtual denial of normal childhood and human life with certain variations
according to their forms of practice of prostitution.
He also states: “While talking about child prostitution, people usually have
referred to girl child prostitution. This probably because male child prostitution is yet to
become a common phenomenon (though there is a clear evidence of its presence in places
like Goa) in addition to it’s being a complex phenomena. This complexity arises out of

73 Child Prostitution The Ultimate Abuse, Report on the National Consultation on Child Prostitution, 18-20
November, 1995, New Delhi, Organised by YMCA, ECPAT and UNICEF, p3
74 Ibid.
75 K K Mukheijee, Supra Note 10, p37.
76 Priti Patkar,‘Girl child in Red Light Areas’, 1991 (Jan): 52 IJSW, p73.
77 P C Sharma, ‘Globally Organised Sexual Crimes against Children’, CBI Bulletin, April 1996, p7
78 K K Mukheijee, ibid, p35.

the fact that a male prostitute may have both male and female clients. Younger the male
prostitute, there is a likelihood of the client being a male and vice versa with certain
Sheela Barse, a prominent child rights activist, has time and again raised one
question: In which realm should the rights of the girl child fall into, the women’s rights of
. the child rights? This dilemma has a significant impact on the issue of child prostitution,
since child prostitution enfolds within itself male child prostitution also.
Barse observes: “Inspite of her neglect so far, the girl child belongs to the world
of children’s rights because of the commonality of disadvantages they suffer and the
privileges they ought to enjoy on the grounds of age, class and personal status.”
Sarika Misha, a second year B.A., St. Xavier’s College, Bombay observes:
“Today there is existence of ‘kid pom’ where children and not adults are chosen for
sexual. exploitation.”81
She further states that child prostitution is a category of rigorous case of child
labour in general.82 This is an extension of Sheela Barse’s argument. She is not only
discussing the issue in the realm of children’s rights but has brought a totally new
dimension by relating child prostitution to child labour.
She observes: “The problem of child labour is a multi-dimensional one as the
children form a large segment of the total population. Child prostitution involving both
boys and girls is very common today but female child prostitution is more common than
male child prostitution.”
The inclusion of the problems of the girl child into the women’s rights issue may
have given them an edge over the problems faced by a male child. Here a few words of
caution by Barse may be mentioned. She says: “I conclude by alerting supporters of the
girl child to the danger of lessening concern if not total neglect of boys, who in some
sectors, are more disadvantaged than girls. The incidence of handicap among male
children is greater. A larger number of boys work in terribly hazardous industries. More
boys are living on the streets than girls. The plea, therefore, is to take a balanced and

79 K K Mukheijee, Supra Note 10, p6.

80 Sheela Barse, ‘Social Legislation Rights of the Girl Child’ 1991 (Jan): 52IJSW, pi 00.
81 Sarika Misha, ‘Child Prostitution’, Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Bulletin, August 1987, pl2.

holistic approach to children’s deprivation and assurance of rights, as we fight for a
secure space for the girl child in the world of children and adults.”84

Priti Patkar while taking exception to the practice of a daughter of prostitute

following the foot steps of her mother and becoming a prostitute herself and the son
becoming a dalaal or pimp asks: “Is not the time long overdue for all these children also
to get their share of human dignity and opportunity, not merely by removing them from
an environment comprising of smugglers, brothel-keepers and pimps; not merely to make
them better parents to the next generation; not merely to create more worthwhile
contributors to the community and country, but expose them to opportunities simply
because that is their basic human right?”85
Poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, deception, consumerist culture, drugs, ineffective
rural developmental policies, slums, tourism, destitution and many other causative factors
lead to the growth of sexual exploitation of children. But Ron O’Grady of the ECPAT
raises an ethical issue. He asks: “How much is a child worth? Even if poverty is the
driving force, is it worth telling your child to go into prostitution, which is almost a
certain death. It is not just poverty. Why does one poor family sell children to prostitution
and another will not? These are ethical issues. It is about valuing one’s child.”86 The New
Indian Express on 25-08-2003 published a news item stating that the mothers of young
starlets working in film industry were pushing their daughters into prostitution. This may
sound a bit extreme but the question itself is by no means an insignificant one.
A myth prevails that an intercourse with a virgin can cure a man of sexually
transmitted disease and rejuvenate him. It is also a widely prevalent belief that sex with
a girl child does not expose the man to STDs and HIV. This however is a misconception
as children are prone to cuts, lacerations and wounds. Child sex workers often suffer from

skin diseases, vaginal discharge, menstrual problem, genital warts etc.

Sheela Barse, Supra Note 80, p 104. .
Priti Patkar, Supra Note 76, p76
Report of YMCA, ECPAT & UNICEF, Supra Note 73, p9
Velvet Blouse, Supra Note 21, pi 1.

Sanlaap, an NGO working for sex workers, states that travelers with AIDS
generally look out for younger virgin girls and the traffickers also create a market and

offer child prostitutes saying they are safe.

K K Mukherjee in his report on girl child prostitution has discussed in detail the
impact of prostitution on the girl child. He states: “They suffer from physical weakness
and afflictions like skin disease, tuberculosis, anemia, STD or AIDS. They also suffer
from aches and pains and various types of uterine infections. Much of the health
problems result from the unhygienic and unhealthy living conditions, and the very nature
of their work, the fact they have to face new and unknown situations. They often suffer
from vaginal injuries, which later create problems of conception, besides making them
vulnerable to STD/AIDS.”
“The negative impact on their mind has been differently felt by the girl prostitutes
and this include feeling of grief, anxiety and worries, humiliation, rejection, nervousness,
depression and frustration. They experience perpetual mental disturbance. Sometimes, it
is a combination of different feelings that give rise to a complex mental state. Negative
social impact includes social insult, degradation, isolation, living life as outcastes, being
looked down upon etc.”90
Initiation of a child into prostitution is a horrendous experience. Sanlaap states
that child prostitutes are found in terrible physical conditions. The vagina is not only
seriously hurt but they suffer from terrible STDs. In one of the areas they found that
cylindrically cut ‘pith’ or ‘thermocol’ is inserted inside the vagina regularly to make the
path big for big built men. The practice is not only painful but also degrading and stops
the girl’s natural free movement.91
Roma Debabrata also puts out disturbing facts. She states: “Here these
unfortunate girls are subjected to continuous rape which is intended to develop their
sexual urges. In the process if they get unconscious they are left in that state. As soon as
they regain consciousness, they are brutally raped again. If this method also fails, then the
girls are subjected to further unbound savagery by the malkeens and dalaals. Sometimes

89 Sanlaap, ‘A Study of Child Prostitution in West Bengal’, Study commissioned by National Commission
for Women, 4 Deen Dayal Marg, ND, 1997, p4.
90 K K Mukheijee, Supra Note 10, p37.
91 Sanlaap, Supra Note 89, p9.

red chilies and even burning cigarette butts are applied on her private parts. Also many a
times the weight valve of a pressure cooker is removed, a pipe instead is fitted with the
valve and the hot steam is injected into the minor girls vagina. These girls are forcibly
made to eat snake’s meat, which serves as aphrodisiac. Finally when the girls can no
longer go through these barbaric ordeals, they give up and are transformed into a
commodity for the sex market.” .
If the girls try to escape, the malkeens and dalaals can aict mercilessly. Prof
K.K.Mukhopadhyey of the Delhi School of Social Work recollects an incident.93 He

relates the example of a sincere and sensitive European woman who took it upon herself
to rescue a Nepalese girl from a Bombay brothel. She arranged the girl’s escape but could
not secure enough documents to get her out of the country to send her back home. Finally
fed up with the situation, the girl returned to the brothel. She had no community support
to begin her life again. The following day, she was killed and her body parts were thrown
on the streets, tp serve as a gruesome reminder for all those girls who attempt to escape.
This is a pointer towards the magnitude and severity of the problem. These kids
do not have any sort of control either over their bodies or their lives. Literacy is nearly at
zero levels. Having some knowledge of their rights, legal or human is absolutely
impossible as even the adult prostitutes are unaware of their rights.94 The arrests by
police or the rescue as victims, the indefinite wait in the government homes happens and
these unfortunate women and children do not emerge any better out of the situation. They
are totally disregarded by their family, the society and the State - the three sectors that
should care for the girl child or the unfortunate young women.95

The social factors which lead to the sustenance of prostitution and trafficking in
women clearly show that most of the reasons for the entry of women into this institution
takes place involuntarily or forcefully. But they also indicate that there are women,
however small that section might be, who are entering this institution voluntarily. The

Report by YMCA, ECPAT and UNICEF, Supra Note 73, p25.
Sanlaap, Supra Note 89, p9.
Ibid, p9.

presence of force of circumstance cannot be denied even among this group. While
discussing the psychological causes of prostitution we find that there are some exceptions
to even the force of circumstance explanation. Among the various types of women in
prostitution call girls or hitch hiking prostitutes exercise relative freedom compared to the
remaining women of the genre. The very presence of cage brothel prostitutes where
women languish hoping to be released someday, and finally yield to the perpetrators
realising that freedom from bondage is not going to arrive shows that the argument for
legalisation of prostitution may not be a panacea. But once these cage brothel prostitutes
succumb to pressure and enter into this institution few options are left due to various
taboos attached to these women. Finally they resign themselves to the situation and try to
make the best of it. Does it therefore mean that after the acceptance of their current
situation, the act has turned voluntary in nature? These are pertinent questions that do not
brook any easy answers, much less certainty, particularly when we discuss the issue of
legalisation of prostitution.
The horrendous experiences which child prostitutes face also reveal the darker
side of human nature and the sinister features of this institution. Any discussion on the
desirability of legalisation cannot simply ignore these realities. Prostitution and
trafficking are indeed two different aspects and have to be dealt with at different planes.
However, can trafficking be tackled without curbing child prostitution that is deeply
entrenched in prostitution itself? At the same time can one totally ignore the voices of
women in prostitution who are passionately seeking legalisation of this institution? While
according respectability to it by calling it an institution, legitimacy and dignity is denied
to the very women upon whom this institution survives. Of relevance here is the
discussion on nomenclature. The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee’s campaign for
legalisation cannot be brushed aside. It is an expression of anguish articulated by the
women in prostitution seeking a better life. The causative factors for their entry may be
different from those that make for their continuance in prostitution. It is not necessary for
a woman who has entered into it because of coercion to continue in prostitution due to the
same reasons. One cannot expect that a woman coming from a remote village of Bihar or
Orissa to remain the same after spending many years in the streets of Kamatipura. Stating

this does not mean that one is too judgmental either about the earlier woman or the
transformed one.
Economic causes that have led to the growth of prostitution have been discussed
at length. Poverty, consumerism, tourism, inequitable distribution of material resources,
armed conflicts, urbanisation, industrialisation, regional imbalances, denial of economic
freedom to women, non-implementation of land reforms and other factors have been
indicated to be the causes for the growth of this institution. Violence in general against
women increases with economic distress in society. Their impoverishment intensifies
with it. The correlation between economic imbalance and violence against women has a
direct impact upon prostitution and trafficking. As trafficking is very lucrative every
effort is made to keep this institution going. It leads to the growth of child prostitution.
Thailand, Vietnam and now East Europe are examples. The whole debate also throws up
serious ethical issues.
If the reasons for the sustenance and growth of this institution can be properly
understood, it could be a step towards addressing the problem of trafficking and forced
prostitution. Various studies have been conducted by governmental and non­
governmental organisations about the sources of prostitution and the trafficking routes at
the national and international level. This should help the law enforcement machinery to
take action against traffickers. Much is yet to be done in this regard. There are
circumstances where the line between forced and voluntary prostitution is rendered very
thin. Thus the law has to be receptive to the needs of the women in prostitution and try to
resolve various conflicting interests.