Did you know that prostitution per se is legal in India? Well, it is basically entangled in a web of laws that leaves the sex workers and clients open to harassment by the police.

For instance, voluntary sex work is not illegal but running a brothel is.


Now, a Supreme Court panel that is looking for ways to improve working conditions for sex workers has put out a number of recommendations, reported the Hindustan Times.

  • One of them is that the police must not interfere or take criminal action against adult sex workers who are “participating with consent”. 
  • “Whenever there is a raid on a brothel, since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised,” the panel says.
  • Another recommendation is that the offence of “soliciting” under section 8 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956 should be deleted. Right now, soliciting or seducing for the purpose of prostitution can land you in jail for six months along with a fine of Rs 500. This law, the panel says, is open to misuse by enforcement agencies.
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  • The panel also said there should be amendment to the law that says any person above 18 living on the earnings of prostitution faces imprisonment of up to 10 years.
  • There should be no action against a prostitute’s parent, partner or children living on her earnings. This is unless it is proved that they forced her into the trade
  • In order to stop victimisation of prostitutes, those who are caught in the trade near a public place should be sent to a correctional home and not in jail. Also, the duration of the stay should be brought down from five years to one. Right now, prostitution in a public place is unlawful

The panel, formed in 2011, is headed by senior advocate Pradip Ghosh, and will submit its report in March.

There are an estimated 1.2 million prostitutes in India, and most land up in the trade because of crushing poverty.

Feature image source: Reuters