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The Red Light Laws

As the clothes are pulled down her shoulders, she looks at herself in the mirror and a tear rolls down her eye. She flinches with the bite when she is picked up and laid down. After hours, she comes out of the hotel room hiding with her face covered in a black cloth. Her wallet overflowing with money but no identity of her own.

Yes, prostitution is deemed legal in India however, the legal provisions do not follow the suit. For instance, the operation of brothels is prohibited under the SITA (Suppression of Immoral Traffic In Women and Girls Act). Broadly, the prostitutes are allowed to undertake their business yet they cannot practice it publicly.

The lives of sex workers in India are abysmal. There are about 2.8 million sex workers in the country. For their protection, the Suppression of Immoral Traffic In Women and Girls Act, 1956 (SITA) was the first legislation that was passed by the government of India. It was later amended in 1986 as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA).

Under the ITPA act, it is unlawful to utilize "any house, room, conveyance, or location, or any portion of any house, room, conveyance, or place, for the purposes of sexual exploitation or abuse for the gain of another person, or for the mutual gain of two or more prostitutes," according to Section 2(a).

It is illegal to keep a brothel and live off on the proceeds of sex work, procuring, enticing, or detaining people for the purpose of prostitution. While police officers are tasked with enforcing the Act both locally and nationally. They are given special powers to raid, rescue, and search houses suspected of being used as brothels among other provisions.

In such restrictions, prostitution is only legal for the sake of it. Prostitutes are frequently abused by their clients and harassed by their families, the community, and even the authorities. They have faced discrimination from every section of society. They do not have an identity of their own and are treated differently by society. They lack identity, are ostracised, and are looked at as a polluting element of society. The majority of women are driven into prostitution as a result of drug addiction, poverty, and a lack of education. It becomes the duty of the empowered and the privileged class to come forward and help sex workers get the status that they deserve.

Image Via Youth Ki Awaaz

If prostitutes are treated equally to citizens of the country under the Constitution and have the same rights, why are they looked at differently in society? The Supreme Court recognized the predicament of prostitutes and ruled that they are human beings who have no right to be assaulted or murdered. 'Women engage in prostitution not only for pleasure but also because they are poor,' the court stated. As a result, the Court directed the government to develop plans to provide vocational training to sex workers across the country.

Simultaneously, the court maintained that an adult woman shall enjoy all fundamental rights and the right to choose her career. Although sex workers have a right to live in dignity, the court held that the sex workers must work together to give up the trade if they are given an alternative platform.

Even though there are NGOs, associations, and government that have made provision for the empowerment of the sex workers, there are societal culture and limitations that creates countless obstacles.

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