Prostitution in India

Did you know that prostitution in India is so rampant that every hour, four women or girls enter prostitution, out of which three enter it against their will? Prostitution in India has both modern and ancient facets to it. Who hasn't heard of the devadasis, the most famous face of ancient prostitution in India? That said, it is equally well known that the devadasi women of yore well highly adept at various art forms, were erudite and dignified women, who were honored by kings and priests alike. They were "religious prostitutes" having been dedicated to the Goddess at a young age, and did not belong to any man, but rather were more empowered and enlightened than an ordinary woman in those times. The modern face of prostitution in India, though, is a sad story of women forced to become prostitutes due to economic deprivation, betrayal by their spouses/lovers/families, certain social customs (that lead to a stoic acceptance of prostitution as a way of life) and even reasons such as incest and rape.

A dichotomy of prostitution in India is that it is legal but not regulated. There are an estimated 20 million commercial sex workers in India, with Mumbai alone being home to about 200, 000 of them. In fact, Mumbai has the dubious honor of being the largest sex trade center in the whole of Asia! Most of the women who are lured into prostitution in India are coerced or blackmailed into it by a close relative or friend or acquaintance. Once into it, the likelihood of their children too following in their footsteps is sometimes inevitable due to lack of resources to escape from the trap. There are social systems too that presuppose prostitution in India as a way of life-the Bachara people, for instance, who have a tradition of forcing their eldest daughters into prostitution. There is the Chukri system too, which is a form of bonded labor where a girl is forced into prostitution and works for as long as is deemed necessary to pay off her family's debts. It has to be noted that the central government has a scheme put into place to release bonded laborers by providing grants and financial resources to release them, following the abolishment of bonded labor legally in India since 1976.

It has to be noted that, when talking about prostitution in India, there is a growing trend of male prostitutes or gigolos who service wealthy ladies or foreign tourists. Also, as if to negate the assumption that prostitution in India involves only the economically deprived sections of society, there is a whole industry of escorts or call girls who are sourced from educated college girls or girls from glamorous industries like modeling and filmdom. They usually advertise their services through more high-tech methods such as the Internet and even advertising in newspapers. The new face of prostitution in India could well be these men and women who enter into the world's oldest profession willingly and knowingly!

Article by Karishma J.Anand

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