Is prostitution banned or legal in India

India: prostitution in the gray area

According to estimates by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, more than a million women and children were working in Indian brothels in the late 1990s - probably a fifth of them were under the age of 18 and half were infected with the HIV virus. Indian women's rights organizations even estimate that there are more than three million prostitutes today.

"New Terrifying Qualities"

The sex industry is growing with India's economic opening and

increasing tourism tremendously. Especially in big cities like Mumbai (Bombay) or Kolkata (Calcutta), demand generates an offer that creates new, terrifying qualities of prostitution and pedophile pornography, complains Ranjana Kumari, women's rights activist and director of the "Center For Social Research" in New Delhi. With the economic development, India has become a very open market with a focus on tourism. Everything is geared towards entertainment.

"Pornography is easier to come by than ever," says Kumari. Indian girls are used for pornographic pictures and films - little boys are abused for pedophilic prostitution. Customers would come to India to use these services. "The informal market has grown much faster than prostitution in the well-known red-light districts," said Kumari. Globalization has not increased brothel prostitution - new forms of covert prostitution are emerging.

Prostitution is moved to private rooms

Prostitution in India is increasingly being relocated to private spaces

Prostitution is not generally banned in India, but public advertising and pimping are criminal offenses. This also ensures that the contacts of prostitutes and customers are inconspicuously relocated to private rooms: women and children can be ordered for sexual services by mobile phone at home or in hotels. Middlemen on the street provide customers with telephone numbers and Internet addresses.

Even the situation in the brothels can hardly be controlled. If the whereabouts of the women and children are no longer known, it is practically impossible to protect them from violence and arbitrariness by the pimps, says Ranjana Kumari. The biggest problem is the age group, because the girls abducted from neighboring countries or villages in India's big cities are very young - on average 9 to 16 years. This is an age at which girls are particularly vulnerable and can be ruthlessly abused.

Taxes instead of raids

Local authorities regularly order police raids in brothels, nightclubs and hotels, primarily to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. But there are increasing reports that the police officers are doing common cause with the pimps in red-light districts instead of protecting women and girls from violence and arbitrariness.

Recently, prostitutes in West Bengal proposed paying taxes if the authorities stop raiding brothels, nightclubs and discos. The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) is an association of around 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal who advocate the protection of prostitutes and better AIDS education. The DMSC argues that legal taxation would replace the protection money that is currently paid to corrupt police officers anyway. The authorities rejected the proposal. Nevertheless, it sparked a discussion about the question of the legalization of prostitution.

The dignity of women was preserved

Ranjana Kumari emphasizes that it is important to protect the dignity of women and not to see them as criminals. But as long as hundreds of thousands of women and children from countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh were brought to India for forced prostitution every year, the entire trade should not be legalized.

In addition, the average age at entry is nine to twelve years. It is not possible to allow such work for children under the age of 18. In addition, the work is rarely done voluntarily. Legalization is therefore a very difficult question.

Pimp responsible for exploitation

Only the fight against poverty can deprive forced prostitution of the breeding ground

The tax question is problematic, however, because the girls in this trade have no money, this is controlled by the pimps. They are the ones responsible for the exploitation. "The prostitutes themselves only get so much

how they need to survive so that they don't think about fleeing, "says Kumari.

Even if by two or three years in this job it was possible to save enough money to open a shop of their own, the pimps would never let that happen. "If we legalize the trade, the pimps are the problem because they would control and benefit from any government funding," said Kumari.

Prevention in the foreground

This is exactly where the dilemma of the existing one shows itself

Conditions, says Vipin Bhatt, lawyer and social worker at the "Center for Childrens Rights" in New Delhi. Brothel owners, pimps and human traffickers could rarely be prosecuted because they were covered by local officials - officials who are supposed to protect women.

Vipin Bhatt therefore sees prevention as a priority. Changes in legislation are of course necessary, for example stronger laws against human trafficking. But above all in the regions of origin of the women and children, families need to be informed about human trafficking. Ultimately, only the fight against poverty can remove the breeding ground for forced prostitution in the long term. But a lot still needs to happen before then.

"You can't just focus on the red light districts. You also have to see where the children come from, who the middlemen are, who got the parents' permission to take the children to the places where they are prostituted - and of course who the people who use such services are, "says Bhatt.

Not a national issue

Under the conditions of the globalized market and the growing tourism industry, prostitution in India should not

remain a national topic, but become an international focus

move. In order to remove the breeding ground for human trafficking in South Asia in the long term, foreign investors and producers and, last but not least, the dazzling tourism industry are asked to make their contribution to raising awareness and fighting poverty.