prostitution in India
-- By Sarika Misha
Child labour is not a new phenomenon. It has existed in one form
or the other in all historical periods. What is new, however, it
its perception as a social problem and its being a matter of
days the child was viewed with a tender feeling and treated with
warmth, mercy, and compassion. But the fund of knowledge about
the psychophysical needs and the environmental influence
impinging on his growth and development was rather meager. The
mechanics and dynamics of child development were not adequately
and scientifically understood. Today on scientific grounds it
can be asserted that work as a direct fulfilment of child's
natural abilities and creative potentialities is always
conducive to healthy growth but work when taken up as a means
for fulfilment of some other needs becomes enslaving in
character of a social problem in as much as it hinders, arrests,
or distorts the natural growth processes and prevents the child
from attaining full blown personality.
share of the value generated by it is appropriated by some one
else and the child is left with a fraction that can not meet
comfortably even the survival needs.
labour is thus defined as work performed by children that either
endangers their health or safety, interferes with or prevents
education or keeps them from play and other activity important
to their development. Child labour of this kind is considered a
problem of child labour is a multi-dimensional one as the
children from 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
the oldest profession, prostitution has become an integral part
of 'all sorts' that make the world. Women who resort to this
rarely get a sympathetic word from the society and their life is
wasted away selling momentary pleasures for a meal and existence
in cubby holes called 'cages'. If their plight is pathetic,
worse still is that of the child prostitutes.
there is existence of 'kid porn' where children and not adults
are chosen for sexual exploitation.
Ironically child prostitution is a special category of rigorous
case of child labour and it raises more troubling ethical
problems than child labour in general.
Many surveys have been conducted to find out the extent of child
prostitution. Dr. Gilada's paper on perspectives and positional
problems of social intervention" shows that,
"70% of women are forced into prostitution and 20% of these are
Statistics of the survey done show:-
Population Prostitute Population
Bombay 10 million 100,000
9 million 100,000
7 million 40,000
3 million 40,000
conducted by Indian Health Organization of a red light area of
1. 20% of
the one lakh prostitutes are children.
2. 25% of the child prostitutes had been abducted and sold.
3. 6% had been raped and sold.
4. 8% had been sold by their fathers after forcing them into
5. 2 lakh minor girls between ages 9yrs-20yrs were brought every
year from Nepal to India and 20,000 of them are in Bombay
6. 15% to 18% are adolescents between 13 yrs and 18 yrs.
7. 15% of the women in prostitution have been sold by their
8. Of 200m suffering from sexually transmitted diseases in the
world 50m alone were in India.
9. 15% of them are devdasis.
There are several causes of child prostitution but some of the
most important ones are as follows:
Devdasi system:- many of the devdasis are the girls who were
dedicated to the Goddess Yellamma by their parents at a very
young age. They are the servants of God as they are married to
the Goddess. This ceremony takes place twice a year. The main
one is during the second fortnight of January at Karnatakas
Saudatti village in South West of Miraj. Once the girl is
married to a Goddess she cannot marry a mortal.
procurers frequent the place inorder to get the fresh supplies
of girls as 4000 to 5000 girls are dedicated every year to the
puberty is a secondary thing as there is a ceremony known as
heath Lawni (or touching ceremony) whereby the girl is made over
to the highest bidder.
revealed that one third, of which three fourth are under
fourteen years, are in Bombay's cheapest brothels. They belong
to the low castes like Mahars, Matangs, etc. who give low
priority to education. They are so poverty stricken that
Fathers, brothers and husbands do not hesitate to sell their
daughters, sisters and wives.
Prevention of devdasis Act has been in the statute book since
1935 and amended recently but the system continues even today
despite governmental ban, Still the girls are dedicated to the
Goddess and forced into virtual prostitution and made to
entertain males in order to invoke the blessings of the deity.
estimated that in Delhi 50% of the prostitutes are devdasis and
in Bombay, Pune, Solapur and Sangli. 15% of them are devdasis,
(2) It is
also noticed that young and old men prefer young and new girls.
Growing poverty, increasing urbanization, and industrialization,
migration, and widespread unemployment, breaking up of joint
family system etc. are also responsible for the prevalence and
perpetuation of the child prostitution.
influx of the affluent and not so affluent people from Gulf
countries in India has boosted the flesh trade in cities like
Bombay, Hyderabad etc. The parents are forced to part with their
daughters for as little as 2 rupees tow two thousand in the fond
hope that they would get two square meals in the moneyed new
marriages without proper knowledge of the bridegroom's family
background leading to a divorce initiates the gravitation of
girls to the red light area.
Another inaction is after rape. A fifteen years old girl was
brought to Dr, Gildas Clinic as she was suffering from the
symptoms of an STD she had been raped and sold by a self styled
social worker. The poor girl was forced into silence by the
threats of dire consequences.
children are not lured into it but are thrust into it. There was
a case of a sixteen years old girl who was sold to a brothel
owner by her father following incest. 8% of these girls are
victims of incest because of the myth-that one of the causes for
an STD is intercourse with a virgin.
a times when a child who has lost both his parents is looked
after by the relatives and these relatives too force the child
marriages are a common phenomenon even today and the bride is
very much younger to the bridegroom so the husband drives the
innocent wife into prostitution. There is a case where a girl of
13 was married off to a man of thrice her age three months later
he abandoned her and married another girl. She returned to her
poor parents and three months later a man promised her a good
job and took her to Bombay from where he went and sold her to a
middle aged woman at Kamatipura for rupees ten thousand and did
not come back to take her.
of them are lured to Bombay the tinsel town. They dream of
stellar roles in films and mostly end up as prostitutes in the
Who are these girls, where then they procured from? How and why?
Tribal Kolta women and girls from Garhwal hills are compelled to
become prostitutes to rescue their family from debt bondage.
Poverty stricken young girls from Bengal and Nepal are lured
with promises of attractive jobs and marriage. The agents came
to know about the existing condition in the areas of U. P. Tehri
Garhwal. Dehradun etc. The local Rajputs used to keep the men as
animals and exploit their wives, sisters and daughters too. The
agents were successful in convincing these women well and hence
brought them to Delhi and Agra and sold them to the brothels
phenomenon of commercialized trafficking of their girls found an
easy acceptability among kollas as Nadeem Hasnain, an
anthropologist researched the Socio-economic and cultural
variables responsible for the bondage. In his book Bonded for
ever (1982) says. "… Centuries of exploitation and extreme
degrees of material and non material deprivation and the
resultant wretchedness have taken the fight out of them and they
can hardly resist the temptation of getting some hundred rupees
even at the cost of selling their offsprings and wives. It is an
economic battle for life".
5000 teenagers and women in a Tehsil of sangli district in South
Maharastra wait for the month of June when the Arabs come and
the year long poverty and hunger of these women, children, and
babies is dispelled over night. The flesh trade flourishes from
June to September and makes all the people connected with it
Rajashtan teenage prostitution is catching up as men sit and
smoke hukkas while women fix bargains years after passing of the
suppression of immoral traffic of women and children act. The
children of the age group between 12 yrs to 20 yrs practice
prostitution after school hours. Most of these children are
later sold to the brothels of Agra and Delhi.
In big cities women procures are on a lookout for girls and they
get girls from Basti, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Shahjahanpur, which are
particularly notorious areas. Trilokpur police said that in a
period of a year one thousand girls were sold in Doomariyaganj
has a very large female population and majority of them are
illiterate and are very gullible and can be lured under any
pretext. They are very religious and succumb to the promises of
being taken to temples in India. They are fair skinned and
attractive and a promise to get them into films tempts them.
There is widespread unemployment in Nepal and the girls are
totally unexposed to the outer world.
of these girls are habitual bidi smokers so a little bit of the
soporific can be mixed in the cigarettes for e.g. Ganja, Charas
before abducting them. The Govt. of Nepal plans to ban smoking
for women for this reason. The procurers find new ways of
abducting them. One of the ways is giving them the 'magic paan'
(betel) which is cocaine mixed, as most of the girls are abdicts
of paan and beedi fall an easy prey to the cocaine intoxication.
bait is that of dowry which exists in reverse from in Nepal. A
man can buy a bride and then he brings her to Bombay or anywhere
and sells her at a brothel. Bombay seems to be an end of the
rainbow when the daughters disappeared, the parents did not try
to find out because they neither had the resources nor the
ability to do so. They are assured that each girl can look after
herself and if she does not reach so far. But when the girls
started disappearing more frequently the rumours filtered back
to the villages the neighbours were told that she was working in
parents do not accept the girls back but the money they send to
them 80% of the girls crossing the Indo-Nepal border fall
victims to racketeers who include Government officials of the
also brought from Karnataka, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh and
are assaulted and raped till they submit to this shameful life.
In the seamy and sordid world where each painted faced hides its
own talk of abduction coercion an submission the 'gharwali' or
the 'madani' rules by force and is helped by 'Goondas'. The
prostitute is deprived of her earnings till the price which was
paid to buy her is procured. If she utters a word of
dissatisfaction she is whipped. They are kept in sophisticated
cages by their owners. The child prostitutes who are minors and
virgins are kept under strict vigil in reserve as they are in
great demand. The Arabs and Koreans are used to paying thousands
for these girls. The girls are never lodged at the same place
permanently and they are shifted occasionally to a dozen of
brothels owned by the procuress of their own country to avoid
familiarity with the customers or police detection.
procurer first rechristens the girl and the cautions them
against revealing their real names and also disclosing there
true addresses to the customers. Thereafter they are trained on
the ethics of flesh trade never to turn away any customer, to
treat all customers well equally courteously and superficially
and never to discuss personal matters and keep themselves clean.
They are also given one weekly holiday. The brothels where minor
girls are kept, have two entries so as to escape during the
have to live in a really unhygenic condition with very little
food. A dozen girls have to live in a 10 x 10 room and that too
without any medical check ups. These girls are forced to work
round the clock. They are excused only when they are physically
have quacks to treat them who dispense debilitating remedies and
also use dangerous and unhygenic methods of abortion. The quacks
inject coloured liquid in the infected areas as the treatment
for various sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis,
scabies, venereal wart etc. making the children never totally
cured thus extending their hold on them. The girls are seldom
taken for treatment as sex with a minor girl is a crime so the
madams are scared of the criminal proceedings.
decades the most important red light areas have been enjoying
the police protection. The policemen themselves go to the
brothels for tea snacks and girls. They inform the brothel
keepers in advance about the raids which are scheduled to take
police, the brothel keeper, and pimps share the major part of
the earnings of the prostitutes and the rest of it that
percolates down to the prostitutes is a mere pittance. It is
alleged that the police and abet the running of the brothels.
They accept the hospitability, money and free use of the girls.
The police helps the brothel keeper even by bringing back the
ones who have run away. In a case where a girl named Geeta who
was ten years old was rescued by a hawker after many attempts
was returned back to the brothel keeper by the inspector himself
on the same day.
escapes by the victims and recovery by the police are rare. The
recoveries do not account for even 2% of the actual number of
girls procured it different places.
prostitution does not exists only in India but also in other
parts of the world.
salves all from impoverished Dominican republic were found
hidden in sealed containers unloaded at the port St. Thomas in
U. S. Virgin Islands. 28 of these died and survivors were weak
with no identity papers. They work for 18 hrs in a day and get
only 20 dollars per client."
of third worlds young women and children are sold. Sexual
slavery is becoming increasingly international and industrial
organization of Manila which exports girls had 18 girls between
the ages of 10 yrs to 17 yrs ready to be exported with same sign
tattooed on the right thigh.
Thailand child prostitution is relatively discrete and tolerated
Practice of child prostitution is economically unsound,
psychologically disastrous, and morally dangerous and harmful on
even and individual child. One can hardly imagine the extreme
trauma that a child under goes. There is a case of a child
prostitute who lost her speech after being raped by one who had
hired her. She is now placed in a deaf mute school for speech
of Tulsa a Nepali girl is more pathetic. Since the age of 13 she
was sold and brought by many people and shifted from brothel to
brothel and was forced by five to seven men every day. In this
process she ended up with many diseases. She was taken to J. J.
Hospital at Bombay. She was said to be suffering from
meningitis, tuberculosis of brain, bone and chest and had an STD
in advanced stage. The police took over sixteen months a file a
charge sheet. Finally she was repatriated to Nepal. The culprits
in the Himalayan. Kingdom were tried and imprisoned for 20
prostitutes become ready recruits for flesh trade for they are
rendered unfit for any other trade or calling not being educated
or having any knowledge of any other trade.
prostitution itself is a criminal activity and serves as a
catalyst for further criminal association in other fields. The
helpless children are turned into mere pawns in the criminal
syndicates which lead to a steady deterioration of morals.
the worlds 200m prostitutes who suffer from STD are in India and
they are mostly found to be affected by tuberculosis, meningitis
scabies, chronic pelvic injections anaemia, syphilis, chaneroid.
Tineacrutis, vevercal war etc. This was the scars that the child
prostitution leaves on the child prostitutes can not be erased
but to a certain extent can be minimised by the medical help.
Law and child prostitution
The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act passed by both houses of
parliament last August come into force from Monday 26th January
amended act detention of a woman for purposes of prostitution is
punishable with a minimum of seven years of imprisonment and
maximum of life imprisonment Equally Stringent punishment will
be awarded to those procuring children for prostitution.
Earlier, the act was known as suppression of Immoral Traffic in
Women and Girls Act (SITA). The name of the act has been changed
and it has been made more effective and stringent. The
definition of prostitute itself has been changed to include
persons of both sexes. Earlier it included girls and women only.
The amendment takes into account the growing menace of male
prostitution especially that involving young boys.
new act there are three categories of victims-children, minors
and majors. The children are those upto 16 years and minors are
those between 16 to 18yrs and majors are those above 18 yrs. The
earlier act recognized only women and girls - a women being one
who has completed 21 years. Punishment for offences committed
against these categories differ in severity Offences Committed
against children and minors will be dealt with more severely
than those against majors.
act provides for the appointment of a special police officer for
investigating offences with inter-state ramifications the women
who are resended by the police during raids will be questioned
only by women police officers and if none is available they can
be interrogated only in the presence of a female representative
of a recognised welfare institution or organisation. To make a
search or conduct a raid too the police officer has to be
accompanied by at least two police women.
Rehabilitation of the prostitutes is a big problem because
people donate for different causes like handicapped people,
blind etc but when it cames to helping these girls not many are
willing. There is a stigma attached to this profession once
rescued the girls are sent to the Remand houses or the
protective houses which are overcrowded, mismanaged, without
facilities or vocational training and living conditions
threadbare. The Government gives an aid of just Rs. 75/- per
girl per month. So the girl realises that the life before was
better and so when the pimp comes to claim them as a brother or
a sister she readily goes with him or her to the old life.
Our society has not only turned a blind eye to minor girls being
enticed into prostitution but also is directly responsible for
the continuance in growth of child prostitution. First the
demand for virgin prostitutes, and secondly it abets child
prostitution by failing to provide adequate facilities for
orphan and destitute children. Unless so called respectable
sections of the society rise in revolt against exploitation the
future of younger generation looks bleak. We have to forget the
idea of once a prostitute for ever a prostitute and think how
can a child help what has been done her by an unthinking adult?
We have to overlook their past and rehabilitate them as one of
the agencies in Bombay called Savadhan headed by Mr. Gupta is
doing. They have got 30 of prostitutes who were rescued married
to respectable people of the society. The IHO has been clamoring
for women police to patrol red light area because policemen
themselves exploit the inhabitant of the Red light area. The
Government should divert more funds for rehabilitation and
private charitable institutions should also contribute what we
achieve in science and technology will be negated if we cannot
protect our minor girls who are being exploited. The Government
should severely punish the people connected with this inhuman
practice should be totally banned for the good of the future
citizens of our country.
1. Child Prostitution: SC notice to state 15th February 1984,
Indian Express (Bombay).
against child prostitution formed 3rd August 1985, The Times of
in Bondage, Prashant Kumar, 11th November 1984, Sunday Observer.
doctors crusade against child Prostitution by Chaya Srivastava.
18th June1986, Deccan Herals (Bangalore)
Rescue, Protect, Destroy: Sheela Barse, 10th February 1985,
Miraj's monsoon harvest, Anand Agashe, 8th May 1986, Indian
Nepal without Love, Shashi Menon, 7th April 1985, Indian
Profile of sexually transmitted diseases in child prostitutes in
the Red light areas of Bombay, V. R. Bhalerao.
Courtesans in the house of God, 8th September 1985. Free Press
Prostitution, 3rd August 1985. Times of India.
Girls as Cargo to Virgin Ils, 21st April 1985, Indian Express.
Teenage Prostitution up in Rajasthan, 28th December 1984, The
of the Prostitutes are minors. V Mathews, 11th August 1985, The
Urbanization a hell for poor kids, 2nd November 1986, The Times
of India, Bombay.
act to curb, child Prostitution, 24th January 1987, Times of
Prostitution Thrives in Bombay, 7th April 1987, Times of India,