Tales of Flesh and Pleasure: Lost Humans of Dark Streets and their Rights


Prostitution is one such business that comes as a last resort to every woman who is illiterate, uneducated, unemployed, and has been dampened by the social evils of society. No one comes into this profession out of his or her own will, there is pressure, a driving force, some reasons which cannot be explained, and a past that cannot be erased. Work, be it of any kind, when it supports your child, gives him/her education out of the income, it is worth recognition. More or less, women in this profession are dragged, some don’t have a choice, and a few have to accept it as their destiny. However, small it is, yet it is a business, but the humans performing this work are not given that status and recognition in society, like any other profession. The paper focuses on the basic human rights of the sex workers in India and their conditions in which they are living. India has a history of prostitution, the rich and the poor both seek pleasure in the garb of those dark and dingy streets, yet the government has been negligent in framing the correct laws for them. There has been no improvement in their way of living and the conditions in which they conduct the trade of flesh, they now need attention. The government, on the other hand, has provided various benefits to a normal woman of a household, in education, work, and medical areas as well. But mere paper bunching does not anywhere focus on the most endless business in the society.

The conclusion quotes that women, being in the meanest of all profession, does have certain human rights and the sex industry require larger attention of the international organization to control the exploitation of the young flesh and being flourished in the market like a fish from the deep oceans. The paper supports the rights of the sex worker as an important part of Reproductive Justice and gender equality. Criminal law is generally a society’s strongest expression of disapproval of action, to be reserved for the most heinous misdeeds, though, those who buy sex cannot be penalized, but sex workers do their living, criminalizing the is no justice, and ignoring their rights is unjust.

“If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts.”

  • Augustine of Hippo

As the world’s oldest profession prostitution has undoubtedly existed in some form as long as society has attempted to regulate and control sex relationships through the institutions of marriage and the family. Society has not recognized it because it brings in its train not only the personal disorganization of persons concerned, but also affect the life organization of the family and the community at large. Prostitution has been the important discourse of female criminality. Urbanization and industrialization have convoluted the problem of prostitution. The growing population of female prostitutes, child prostitutes, male prostitutes, trafficking of women, etc. has created a complex situation that needs prompt attention.

There is a force, that drags a woman to do this flesh trade, no one welcomes to be ruptured by people, one by one out of their own whims and fancies. Out of poverty, illiteracy, or due to sale and purchase bargain by the husband or family across the globe, this takes place. Not just India, their other such pilgrim places for the fresh virgin breed of brides. Young and tight vaginas are the demand of society today. Women, the most trustworthy, has ever since their discovery being figured with obscenity, romanticism or to be very precise as an object. The Indian Sub-continent has a history of prostitution behind, before even proceeding towards the accumulation of any set of law. It is strange to talk about safeguarding a profession, which just requires consent, or in the absence of which it might turn into a rape crime. It is appalling to talk about legalisation, but it is furthermore degrading to talk about making safeguards in the same sphere.

India: Prostitution in the Roots

In ancient India, prostitution is an organized and established institution. In the Indus valley civilization there is some likelihood that the bronze figure of a dancing girl from Mohenjo-Daro represents a sacred prostitute. In Rig-Veda, the term ‘Nruturiv’ occurring at several places proves the existence of dancing girls in that period. Aryan rulers of India developed the system of guest prostitution. Prostitutes were common during the age of Ramayana and Mahabharata. High-class prostitutes were an important part of the court and both dynasties possessed harems of aristocracy in Brahmanic India. Kautilya’sArthashastra describes rules for prostitutes and their activities. They had certain definite prerogatives rights and duties. In the Mauryan period the state protected the interests of prostitutes and gave them all facilities to ply their profession and brothels were looked at as a source of governmental revenue. Vatsayana, the noted Indian sage of the third century B.C. in his ‘Kamasutra’, devoted a number of pages to prostitutes and their amorous way of life. They had to learn sixty-four Kalas like singing, dancing, chanting poetry etc. They played a very important part in the social and cultural life of the people. Buddha made an attempt at the conversion of prostitutes from their paths of sin. Many courtesans joined the devoted band of preachers and lived the ideal life of a nun.

The medieval period featured around nine different tiers of sex workers. Temple emerged as the owner of vast land property and the employer of the large number of religious and non – religious functionaries. It included temple girls. In South India, they are known as Devadasi, originated from the untouchable caste, consisted of girls offered by the parents to the service of God and their religion. It has never been understood to historians, that when casteism was ubiquitous in the country, sex trade or use of flesh for pleasure, did not notice caste, race, or religion of the Indian races that existed at that time.  Unwillingly sold at the age of four, they pledged to the goddess of fertility, Yellamma, forever. Unable to marry mortal men, they work until they’re no longer considered young and attractive, later out casted to live the rest of their lives as beggars. At the highest tier was the Ganika, masters of 64 types of performing arts, with extensive knowledge of music, painting, theatre, and poetry. Where common prostitutes resided within overcrowded brothels, elite courtesans took residence in well-furnished homes and even had their own servants. As women of not just beauty, but refined intellect and skill, they were respected enough to be brought to public functions, being given a place of honour they were considered essential at the time of offering prayers. Due to the laxity of morals among the priests, temple girls were misused for immoral purposes, and clandestine prostitution developed. In the medieval period the Muslim rulers with the exception of Aurangzeb recognized prostitution and the profession flourished under royal patronage. Concubines and favourite slave girls led a pleasant life. They spent their time decking their beautiful persons and in displaying or increasing their power of fascination. A large number of dancing girls were attached to the Mughal courts for dancing and singing. The Rajput states had employed the service of some dancing girls for singing and dancing in the royal court.

The Humans of the Dark Street- Focus on Reality

Talking the truth, the human rights of sex workers actually did not require the discussion through pages, to be highlighted, it requires the efforts of the government. Reality questions whether the normal laws available for the ordinary women of the society are applicable to them? Our constitution is believed to bring in the essence of Article 14 to live structures for every section of the society, but history continues for these humans. As a second gender in the society, humanity does involve them as a fair citizen of the country, they have the right to be regarded with the same dignity and rights like the ordinary citizen of the society, she should be granted the opportunity to avail some technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body[1]. The Supreme Court directed the Central and the State Governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all cities in India. The schemes should mention in detail who will give the technical/vocational training and in what manner they can be rehabilitated and settled by offering them employment. For instance, if a technical training is for some craft like sewing garments, etc. then some arrangements should also be made for providing a market for such garments, otherwise, they will remain unsold and unused, and consequently, the women will not be able to feed herself[2].  The response to the above direction has been unheard of.

Access to justice for women is constrained by social barriers ranging from lack of knowledge of their rights, dependence for assistance and resources and the threat of sanction; and lack of capacities in the justice systems to respond to the particular needs of women[3]. In the case of sex workers in India, stigma and moral lens attached to sex work further accentuate barriers to accessing justice. Their uncertain status in law results in judgments that often mark sex workers as criminals and repeat offenders. Despite Free Legal Aid being enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the Committee’s recommendations[4] that the State Party ensure free legal services to poor and marginalised women, and monitor the quality and impact of such services, access to legal services for sex workers remains a pipe dream. The Supreme Court has also observed that the State and District Legal Services nneedto play a role in publicising entitlement schemes available with the government[5].The failure to receive legal assistance to pursue her is in essence, da enial of the right to fa air trial for women. In instances where sex workers approach district courts, they report having to deal with bias from lawyers and court officials. They are advised to give up “illegal activities” (sex work) or, if they are appearing on a soliciting charge, they are advised to pay a fine and “not drag the case”.

The Domestic Violence Act, 2005, as per the guidelines of Cthe onvention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW) is ineffective for Sex workers; they are especially vulnerable to violence because their status, which may be unlawful, tends to marginalize them. They need equal protection of laws against rape and other forms of violence[6]. Police apathy to the plight of sex workers results in denial of access to provisions under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA 2005).

Raids are human rights vviolationsof sex workers, executed by the police for many reasons; including complaints lodged by NGOs who intend to rehabilitate sex workers and repatriate them, in an effort to abolish this work. The complaint is lodged under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act 1956 to rescue minors and adult women believed to have been trafficked into sex work. The raid could also be undertaken to evict sex workers from a “red light area[7]” under ITPA and other public nuisance laws. Raids are often used to `sweep the streets of sex workers, and clients vagrancy laws, and soliciting under ITPA. Police conduct the raid and indulge in physical violence and extreme verbal abuse which is often sexual in nature, to intimidate sex workers. In 2012, in perhaps one of the largest raids in recent times, an operation was carried out over 3-4 days in a red light area called Simplex building in Mumbai and over 200 women were “rescued and sent to correction homes”. Narratives of raid and rescue operations indicate the highly abusive and violent nature of these operations.

Bringing an imprint of the discussion, tational India almost bans sex trafficking, the Immoral Traffic Suppression Act (SITA) theoretically banned the commercial sex trade in 1956, Indian anti-prostitution laws are generally enforced – and have traditionally been enforced – as public order statutes. Talking about the Laws related to Prostitution in India, there are basically two legislations that is Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act 1956 and Section 372 and 373 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860. Both these laws are here to prevent the practice of pprostitute-relatedactivities. While the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act 1956 criminalizes the Client, Sec. 372 and 373 restricts the sale and purchase of minor for the purpose of prostitution and illicit intercourse. There is no specific law to deal with the problems faced by a sex worker and their child. When 2 million people are working as sex worker and every year more than 20,000 women and girls are forced to walk on this path. This law does not protect the rights of the sex worker but criminalizes the activities related to prostitution. Prostitution is legal in India but activities are not. The demand for legalization of prostitution in India is really high. But some of them consider this against the Indian Society. There is hardly any account relating to a free medical aid ever given to the sex worker, in case she is suffering from ailment or to add a crimonic account, the social officer responsible for maintaining law and order in the vicinity, never adhered to their grievances, if they ever complained about an abuse or rape. Sex workers who are regarded as criminals often face abusive or judgmental treatment in health services and cannot enjoy the benefits of social services or of regulations that protect other workers. Criminal law is generally a society’s strongest expression of disapproval of an action, to be reserved for the most heinous misdeeds. United Nations leaders and other experts have questioned the application of harsh criminal laws to sex work. They note that criminalization impedes sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use with their clients and may force them to work in hidden or remote places where they are more vulnerable to violence. Police abuse and extortion of sex workers both in and out of detention is facilitated when sex work is criminalized[8].

Health hazards to these women are multiple and Sex workers are 10 times more at risk of HIV compared with the general population, due to an increased likelihood of being economically vulnerable, unable to negotiate consistent condom use, and experiencing violence, criminalisation and marginalisation. The question arise, that the maternity benefits and health policies available to common and ordinary woman of the society does include them, or they are just another set of humans on the planet who are not traceable by the government of India.Drop-in centres are often the only places where sex workers can access health care, legal counselling, and other direct services. They also provide a safe space for sex workers to congregate, document abuses, and mobilize for advocacy. The role of drop-in centres is critical given the extreme and rampant violations of sex workers’ human rights in most places around the world. Common violations include physical and sexual violence, unsafe and unjust working conditions, extortion, and lack of access to justice, health care, social welfare, and other services[9].In low- and middle-income countries, HIV prevalence among sex workers is an estimated 12%. In four countries, HIV prevalence is 50 times higher than in the general population. One study of 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa found an average HIV prevalence of 37% among sex workers. In Nigeria and Ghana, HIV prevalence among sex workers is eight times higher than the rest of the population. These types of laws and the conditions that sex workers have to work and live in, dramatically increase their vulnerability to HIV and undermine HIV prevention efforts targeting this group. Respecting, protecting and meeting the human rights needs of sex workers are vital in order to maintain their health and well-being. Sex-Work is legalised in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France, Ecuador, Germany, Brazil, Greece, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Columbia. As long as prostitution is restricted to certain areas, it is generally tolerated. India is subsequently home to Mumbai’s infamous Kamathipura, Asia’s largest red-light district[10]. Kamathipura originated as a massive brothel for British occupiers; however, it is not just limited to this place only.


With deep rooted patriarchal society in India, women and their role have followed the unearthed channel; the second gender has always been conditioned to be submissive and docile. Women became used to institutional legitimation of their low status and find nothing wrong in crimes. Perhaps, become a thing to be kidnapped, abducted, raped and gifted. For the satisfaction of sexual appetite of her master, she was purchased and also possessed. Thus she was reduced from human person to just bodies, for male utility[11]. There are over 800,000 sex workers in India. However unofficial figures place these numbers far higher. Organisations of sex workers, United Nations (UN) agencies and Commissions have understood and articulated sex work as a contractual arrangement where sexual services are negotiated between consenting adults. Implicit in this consent is the act of agency; wherein sex work can be a realistic choice to sell sex. Decriminalisation of sex work is a pre-requisite to ensure the physical and emotional inviolability of sex workers, their right to life, right to freedom of labour, health and reproductive and sexual rights. Recent research with 3000 sex workers in 14 Indian states also finds a substantial segment of women had prior experience of alternative work and opted for sex work, for better income and livelihood opportunities[12].  India is a country known for its multifarious cultures and traditions but social barriers are so rigid that it is very difficult for women to talk about anything personal right from her menstruation to labour pain and hence the real statistics about prostitution remains “hidden”.

Elaborating the scope of Article 6 of CEDAW; General Recommendation 19 calls on States to recognise that their (sex worker’s) unlawful status makes sex workers vulnerable to violence and hence need equal protection of laws against rape and other forms of violence. 29 States were asked to report on the measures to protect women in sex work and the effectiveness of these measures. The CEDAW Committee has recommended the need for measures to prevent “discrimination against sex workers and ensure that legislation on their right to safe working conditions is guaranteed”.

The Supreme Court of India has observed that sex workers are entitled to a right to life and must be accorded the protection guaranteed to every citizen. It instructed the State to provide recommendations on therehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work of their own volition and to provide conducive conditions for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution. A Supreme Court panel recommended that Central government and Election Commission issue voter ID cards, relaxing verification requirements, and state governments and local institutions issue ration cards to sex workers.

When human race is being discussed, there are three genders in the society, moving away from the primitive notion, and after recent sanctions to the third gender[13], man and woman, both are equal in terms of every necessity required for the existence of mankind, still there is a dire need to recognize one for the other. The question remains the same, that the practice of flesh trade, that was evoked in the civilization, initially was limited to entertainment, with time, where once these women were taken care of for various purposes by the king, to enhance the skills of these women, today, the sole purpose has just limited them to body-buying them, their education is of no concern, their skills or their training is only limited to attract customers standing on the streets and satisfying the lust of the busy city life.

A place where we find so many temples around, worshipping goddesses and their unimaginable powers, that protect us, the very verses of the sanskrti show shlokas which say there women is worshipped, god resides there. Well, with this research work, the very own essence of those verses are lost.

Well, women exist to protect many men, but many men, cannot save this one super gender in the society.

Wodhara par hai,



Ab..useyizzat se nawaazneki,


[1]BudhadevKarmaskar v. State of West Bengal, (2012) 7 S.C.R. 881


[3] UN Women (2011), In pursuit of Justice, Progress of the World’s women, 2011-2012

[4]Aarthipai, Manisha Gupte, MeenaSheshu, VAMP , Status of sex workers in India, (Jun. 15, 2018, 12:04 PM), http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/Ind/INT_CEDAW_NGO_Ind_17395_E.pdf

[5]BudhadevKarmaskar v. State of West Bengal, (2012) 7 S.C.R. 881

[6] CEDAW, General Recmmendations : 19, 11th session, 1992, Violence Against Women, available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/index.html

[7]Aarthipai, Manisha Gupte, MeenaSheshu, VAMP , Status of sex workers in India, (Jun. 15, 2018, 12:04 PM), http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/Ind/INT_CEDAW_NGO_Ind_17395_E.pdf

[8]Aarthipai, Manisha Gupte, MeenaSheshu, VAMP , Status of sex workers in India, (Jun. 15, 2018, 12:04 PM), http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/Ind/INT_CEDAW_NGO_Ind_17395_E.pdf

[9]Public Health Program, Centers for Change: Drop-In Centers Facilitate Sex Worker-Led Human Rights Advocacy, Open Society Foundations, (Feb. 20, 2012, 10:04 AM), https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports

[10]Tom Head, History of Prostitution: Prostitution through centuries, Thought Co.(Mar. 17, 2017, 09:57 AM), https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-prostitution-721311.

[11] Dr. Singh, P. K., Brothel Prostitution in India, University Book House (P.) Ltd.Jaypur, 2004, Page No. 3

[12]Aarthipai, Manisha Gupte, MeenaSheshu, VAMP , Status of sex workers in India, (Jun. 15, 2018, 12:04 PM), http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/Ind/INT_CEDAW_NGO_Ind_17395_E.pdf

[13] National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438

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