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Should “Sex Work” be legalised?

Peoples Voice on August 7, 2015 - 5:34 pm in Rights

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A low key campaign for legalisation of prostitution is continuing. It seems to have tacit support of women’s organisations evident from their deafening silence on an issue of such vital importance to women. Repotedly, it also has the support of the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women Lalita Kumarmangalam. It is contended by the advocates of legalisation that if prostitution is legalised ,’the sex workers” will have a legal status and legal rights, which will free them from the harassment by the police and the pimps, make medical help easy, enable them to freely choose their customers and vest them with the rights and dignity due to a worker. It is also argued that it is the oldest profession , and all efforts to end it has failed. Since it cannot be eliminated, it should be legalised.

Is sex really work? Work is not instinctive, it is not a physical and emotional need of a human being like other emotional needs. Commercially, a worker sells his/her labour and skill for wages, i.e. the end result of work is wages. The end of sex is the joy and happiness one experiences by fulfillment of one ‘s instinctive need. There is a fundamental difference between man and woman in this respect. While it is possible for many men to derive pleasure in sex with unwilling or revolting women, for a woman it is a horrible and traumatic experience to submit to sex with a stranger or even with her husband who forces himself on her. To designate sex as work and call the unfortunate women sex workers is a misnomer and a euphemism to camouflage an inhuman act and an inhuman profession.

Had sex been work, women would have overwhelmed the profession in a country in which 80 crore people live on Rs 20.00 (Rupees Twenty only ) per day. There would have been no need to forcibly traffic them into the brothels. Our women prefer bone breaking hard work in the mines or construction work or even degrading work like scavenging to prostitution. Probably, even one person who designates sex as work and and the unfortunate women in the trade as sex worker would join a campaign to dignify sex as work by undertaking it even for a day. They would be right as sex is not work.

Why should the State take the responsibility of gratifying the sexual urge of men ? It is the personal responsibility of every individual , and the State has no responsibility except guaranteeing that men with insatiable desire do not inflict themselves on unwilling or unknown women. To ask for legalisation of prostitution is like asking the State to open brothels like Ration shops. The State must provide adequate food for her citizens, but the sexual urge of men cannot be placed on the same footing.

Who end up in the miserable brothels?  Women who find starvation or death of their family staring them in the face and have no other means to ward them off or those who have been trafficked into them. Rather than legalising prostitution, the State must shoulder its primary obligation of eradicating the level of poverty, which forces women to take to a life of degradation and submit to cruel and inhuman treatment. To advocate legalising such a degrading and inhuman profession is to absolve the. State of its first and primary responsibility of giving its citizens a life in which prostitution can never be one’s choice. Before aspiring to make India an economic power , the Indian. State must eradicate her extreme poverty to ensure that no woman is compelled to end up in a brothel ..Submission to sex under compelling circumstances is rape

Prostitution, too, is submission to sex under compelling circumstances ,and is rape. The terror of watching a starving family or death in the family for lack of treatment is far more abiding and horrifying than many other sources of terror .

As for legalising it because it has not been eradicated so far , the same is true of corruption. Should it also be legalised ?

Prof. Prabhakar Sinha
National President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties

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