Mumbai, the country’s financial capital has always been considered the safest place for women. It is normal for women to come home late at night and travel alone across the capital, which is almost impossible to do elsewhere in India. Ironically, in a survey conducted by ‘The Economist,’ Mumbai ranked 16th in the list of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Mumbai has an organised crime network with an incompetent police force. They favour the anti-social elements such as rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers and other criminals such as prostitutes. The police usually use them to extort money from people. It’s better to remember that humans are not born criminals. Their need and situations render them helpless. India is the biggest market for prostitution in Asia with Mumbai alone accommodating 2,00,000 prostitutes.
In September 2019, three women were caught for working in escort service in the Chincholi Binder area in Malad, by laying a trap using a fake customer which was executed by the social service branch of the Mumbai Police. The victims were produced before the Metropolitan Magistrate, who refused to give their custody to their parents as the magistrate found that it was not in their interest.
It was stated in the report of the probation officer that the women were from a particular community from Uttar Pradesh where there was a tradition of prostitution. The women were sent to a women’s hostel in Uttar Pradesh. In the following sessions, Mumbai High Court stated that women were majors, belonging to the age group of 20-22 years. They have the right to choose and practice the occupation they desire and will be restrained against their wishes.
The court observed that the women cannot be detained against their consent and set them free stating that under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Prostitution per se is not an offence and a person cannot be punished for indulging in prostitution. However, sexually exploiting and abusing a person for commercial purposes is punishable.
A similar online sex racket was exposed on 29 June 2020 in Pune, by four women who fought for their right to free mobility and further assured that they would not indulge in such activities. They were also set free by the Court under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 that they cannot be kept at a remand home without their will, have a right to choose her location and practice the occupation she desires.
Several times, people ought to become prostitutes only because they are homeless, uneducated, and lack good opportunities in their lives. In order to help women who wish to leave prostitution, the government has formulated in place corrections and shelters where they can learn art and learn to live a dignified life as well.
According to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956, prostitution is legal in India. But while searching ‘legalised brothels’ on the internet, that would definitely lead to error page, because that doesn’t exist here. This is a reason that the statistics of rape in India are high as much as 33,356 as of 2017. People who desire to have sex, ultimately rape women as there is no access to such brothels. If such brothels came out open in society, there would be less number of rapes. However, it is very iffy to state that there would be no rapes.
In certain countries like Germany prostitution is taxed. However, they allow brothels but also protect the interests of the prostitutes by requiring a permit for all prostitution trades and a prostitute registration certificate. This is not feasible for India because most of these women are helpless and become prostitutes for monetary perks.
In India, prostitution is considered morally shameful. People believe that it is not an acceptable way of life. Sexual encounters with multiple individuals can lead to sexually transmitted diseases. It is also believed that such places diminishes the idea of companionship and love.
Nowadays amid pandemic lockdowns, social distancing has threatened the livelihood of the prostitutes as it is not possible for people to visit the prostitutes. Therefore, they have levelled up to sexual encounters on video calls, where they are paid through online money transfer apps.
Judging prostitutes is indeed a mistake that people often make. There are also innocent victims who are misled into it because of poverty. In order to be able to understand them, one should have compassion and patience. It is vital to know that no woman wants to treat her body as a commodity, but there are circumstances where she has no choice.