Legislation Of Prostitution


Prostitution is a business in which people are connected sexually and in exchange, they pay the other person for the services offered, and the people who are involved in this business refer to themselves as a prostitute. Prostitution has a mixture of structures, and its legal structure varies from nation to nation, from region to region, from local to area within a nation. Further, it can also be extended from being forced, unregulated, illegal to fully legal profession. Prostitution is something completely different from business sex, pornography, etc. Brothels are the places that are completely devoted to the sole business of prostitution. The point of view concerning prostitution is very contradicting in every country, some people view it as exploitation or slavery of women and can be a reason for child trafficking as well, the legal structure differs around the world as well.

Causes Of Prostitution 

There are many reasons for a woman to fall prey to prostitution, but there are two very common causes: poverty and unemployment. In case of unemployment, some people lure women promising them good jobs and money and then sell them off as sex workers. Poverty is accepted as the fundamental reason for prostitution, under all the circumstances women are driven to this business because of poverty, and it is a reasonable cause of Prostitution. A lot of young people are allured to this business as they think of it as an easy method to earn money and assess their family necessities. The lack of job opportunities, unemployment, increase in crime against women, leads women to prostitution. Other than these reasons, there are probably certain more for people being into prostitution.

Legal Position in India

According to a survey done in India, there are an estimated 6,57,800 prostitutes in India currently, and the worth of this business now is about $8.4 billion. Many illegal brothels are working in some of the metropolitan cities in India, some of them are GB Road in Delhi, Sonagachi in Kolkata, Kamathipura in Mumbai, Budhwar Peth in Pune, and Reshampura in Gwalior.

“The position of India is rather complex when it comes to prostitution. It was legalized in 1956 by the legislation Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act, 1956 (SITA) which was amended in 1986 to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA). According to the Act, prostitution is not illegal per se, but any organized form of it is punishable like managing brothels, pimping, and prostitution services in public. This means that if a woman voluntarily and individually engages in sexual activities with a customer, she cannot be punished by law.”

In the case of Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of Bengal 2011 (10 SCC 283), it was stated and made clear by the Supreme Court that poverty is the reason why a woman is in the business of prostitution and not for sexual pleasure. And when that woman is allowed to educate herself and learn to have a life with dignity then that opportunity should be given to her rather than selling her body. The SC then directed the central and state government to provide the sex workers with vocational training and opportunities to have a dignified livelihood.

Latest Judgements on Prostitution

  • Gujarat High Court ruled in 2016 that while a brothel customer cannot be held accountable under the ITPA, 1986, he can be held liable for physical exploitation if he uses violence or abuses a sex worker in any way.
  • The petitioner in a 2018 case who approached the Karnataka High Court was a customer in a Bengaluru brothel. While engaging in sexual acts with a prostitute, he was caught in a hotel and arrested by police. The proceedings against him were dropped by the Single Judge Bench because there is no penalty for a “customer” who participates in sexual acts with a prostitute.


In India, prostitution is a necessary evil. Even with good legislation, it is impossible to destroy or eliminate it, therefore legalizing it appears to be a better option. Even after the 1956 Act was passed, no control could be exerted to eradicate it from the country. On the contrary, the surge in unlawful trafficking of women and children from other countries exacerbated the problems.

Brothels are unlawfully operated, and even if they are arrested, they can get away with it by paying bribes to officials. The passage of legislation legalizing prostitution could aid in the tracking of all those who engage in this activity. They will have access to legal and medical services and will be able to live better lives. However, it may be beneficial for the courts to establish norms in this regard.


Manasvi Soni

Amity Law School, Noida

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