Author: Shruti Awati, pursuing LLM from ILS Law College, Pune.
“The only thing that the government has done for us, is to label us as “prohibited”, forget having an access to a better life, we have been denied even the basic Human Rights”
- A Sex Worker
Sex work is a very debatable issue. The idea of someone “selling their body” seems dehumanizing and objectifying, even for those who give their consent and work willingly, the ability to perform such work in a safe environment is limited. As a whole, this industry as a dark entity that is unpredictable and lack the regulation that other service employment have.
Naturally, it raises certain questions: should sex work be legalised? Can it be regulated? What about the rights of a sex worker?
Sex workers are on the periphery of social and economic life in many countries. Increasingly, even governments look down upon sex workers as subjects undeserving benefits or legal protection. There are 3 million commercial sex workers in India alone, of whom an estimated 40% are children, consistent with a study conducted by the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Like a coin has two sides, there are certain pros and cons of the legalisation of the sex work. The limited scope of sex education in schools makes clear that sex is taken into account a taboo in countries like India. And, during a social and cultural context that creates sex a taboo, legalising sex work is nearly blasphemous. That taboo thrives on lingering homophobia and transphobia as an example, Section 377, which decriminalised homosexuality in India, has still not been fully enacted. Despite India’s rich historical legacy of emancipation and women empowerment, extending as far back as ancient and medieval Buddhist literature that celebrated prostitutes who rose up to be monks (Amrapali), the inherent notion underlying sex work inspires widespread disgust and abhorrence.
The legalisation of sex work itself remains a conundrum. for instance , one option for legalised sex work could make use of urban zoning centres where prostitution is permitted. Alternatively, sex workers might be licensed, but this might promote discrimination and bias on the idea of identity and infringe on the sex workers’ privacy.
Some men and women chose to do sex work because they enjoy it and see it as a meaningful and legitimate line of work. A magazine called psychology today explains how sex work has grown into a broader field that is also becoming less stigmatized. Many sex workers find themselves in the industry because it is an easy way to make money when it becomes difficult to find another job. In both cases, there are people who have a service to offer sexual gratification through various methods and there are people who want to purchase. Why is this specific form of service criminalized when it is done between consenting adults?
Of course, many fear legalizing sex work due to the forms that aren’t consensual. They argue that legalizing sex work would permit more sex trafficking, particularly with underage girls. Sex trafficking is certainly a problem that must be fixed and should have the attention of law enforcement. However, sex trafficking and sex work involving minors shouldn't to be confused with legal adults who are willing to indulge in in sexual services.
Legalizing sex work stops the criminalization of individuals who are simply trying to make a living, and protects consenting sex workers from harm. it's important to notice that a lot of sex workers, especially women, are abused by their clients. According to the Huffington Post, 45 to 75% of sex workers have experienced sexual violence in their careers. Whenever this happens, women aren't ready to report it for fear of putting themselves in danger since their work is against the law .
If sex work is legalized, it might become as legitimate as the other line of work , and clients who assault workers are often appropriately punished by law. this is able to ensure the safety of sex workers while on job .If sex work is decriminalised, workers will also feel safer and comfortable in reporting minors and other victims of trafficking to police.The idea behind legalizing practices is that you simply can eliminate connected illegal activities, like violence connected to the drug trade.
On the other side, the issue with legalization is that the commercialization and consequential explosion in many of those areas where it is fully legalised. In Germany, it’s estimated that 4,00,000 women service 1 million men each day. The industry has become extremely popular and then it comes with a risk. Running brothels, even upscale ones, can leave some women stuck in undesirable situations. With legalization, these women are often even further trapped within lengthy contracts.
Another option, which has been explored to some success in Sweden, is to legalize prostitution, but make it illegal to buy services from prostitutes. This enables the workers to urge away without being persecuted for his or her jobs, but has still hamper severely on the marketplace for prostitution. The argument is formed that this helps the workers because instead of being arrested, they will get “help” in ways like education or housing or other sorts of economic and psychological assistance.
Whether sex work is legalized or not the stereotype that sex workers are poor, uneducated and should be within the need of therapy will still stigmatize the industry. The main issue with sex work is that it is seen as a “lower” sort of work, which stems from the criminalization but also public perceptions of the practice. It is not inherently dirty, it is not fundamentally immoral, and it is not a profession just for those with no other option yet the overall public sees it that way.
The legalization of sex work as a whole ends up as more of a means to an end, rather than an end itself, to the stigma surrounding the industry. Even so, it does not serve as an effective way to stop crimes related to it, nor does it more easily protect the workers involved. Regulation would certainly be a step in the right direction in an ideal world, but we do not live in one. As it stands today, the legalization of sex work would only further harm those involved and would sacrifice freedom for more exploitation.