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This article is written by Bheeni Goyal from Symbiosis Law School, Pune, which discusses aspects of prostitution and slavery in relation to the Indian context.


The practice of prostitution and slavery prevails all over the world. In some countries, the practice of prostitution and slavery is recognized and followed. In some countries, the practice of Prostitution and Slavery is well regulated through laws and provisions in the country as well. This includes India as well, where certain laws and provisions have been developed for regulating these practices in the country. The author in this article has discussed certain aspects of prostitution and slavery, the laws governing it in relation to the Indian context.

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Prostitution is a situation in which a person has to engage in sexual intercourse for the purpose of money or other purposes. Prostitution is not gender-specific and both males and females can engage in this. The individuals who are involved in the business of prostitution are called prostitutes. Generally, people don’t refer to them by the name of the prostitutes, especially in India. They are called girls or roadside brothels etc. In other countries, the prostitutes are referred to as proper sex workers and it is considered as a business that is undertaken by them for the sake of the livelihood. These countries have accepted this as a full-time profession. However, in many places, the work of the prostitute is considered a sin and these countries declare all such activities as immoral and illegal. India is one such country, where the profession of a prostitute is considered highly immoral and the government has made an effort to make laws for stopping and controlling any kind of such activities.

Prostitution gives rise to human trafficking and most girls are the prey to such illicit trafficking activities. The Central Government of India has made the provisions and tried to introduce the rules for avoiding illegal trafficking and prostitution activities but the implementation of the same was unsuccessful as a large population of our country suffers from poverty, ignorance, and hunger Such problems were prevalent especially in earlier times. There could be many causes of prostitution which could include a bad company, bad parenting, and childhood, and lack of sex education, shortage of resources, rape, psychological causes, recognition, someone in the family who has been involved in prostitution and etc. Prostitution does not only give rise to the problem of Human Trafficking but it can also lead to many health issues for both the consumer and the prostitutes. The disease can be dangerous for a lifetime too. Diseases such as HIV, cervical cancer, STD, traumatic brain injury, and psychological disorders.

Law related to Prostitution in India

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956

In 1956, the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 was implemented which came into existence for stopping the problem of women trafficking in our country. Taking into consideration the Indian context, prostitution cannot be explicitly considered as illegal although the court has pronounced the act of prostitution to be unethical. Certain acts that enable the act of the prostitution are considered as unlawful and acts like traffic of children and women for the purpose of prostitution, handling a brothel, running a livelihood through the money that has been procured by means of prostitution, soliciting or enticing a person into prostitution, etc. are made overtly unlawful by the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA). For example, running a sex racquet is considered to be illegitimate but indulging in private prostitution or receiving compensation for sex with free consent without earlier solicitation might not be prohibited.

An, so that they could turn into decent participants of the society This Act strives for criminalizing the acts which amount to prostitution as cited above and sanctions the police authorities to eradicate these hubs of the prostitution, to close down the brothels and shift them to institutions which can reform them. It allows the Central Government to create a special court to try offences under this Act.

Article 21 of the Constitution

Article 21 of the Constitution provides for the right to life and liberty to every citizen of India. Prostitutes whether male and female are citizens of India as well. Therefore they also have the right to life and liberty as citizens of this nation. The right to life and liberty also includes. The judiciary also believes that women have to indulge in the practice of prostitution because of the compelling situation of poverty. Therefore under Article 21 Constitution of India, the government has a responsibility to provide certain training which could include vocational or technical training. This will ensure the sustained livelihood of those women who are involved in prostitution, instead of selling their bodies. Also under this article ensures that any individual who is living in society should be treated with dignity and respect. Hence the society should hold empathy towards the sex workers and must not look down upon them. They are also eligible for a life of pride in view of Article 21.

Legalization of the prostitution

The legalization of prostitution can be considered as one of the ambiguous and important questions to be considered. For the purpose of legalizing prostitution in India, it is really significant to develop several policies or provisions for the management of such activities. If prostitution is legalized, then all those people with the proper licenses should have the right to indulge in this profession. If Prostitution is considered a profession than the protection under article 19 of the constitution should be made available. There should be a law that will govern the payment of the prostitutes and should provide proper medical insurance for the purpose of protecting the health of the citizens. Before the government takes steps for managing the responsibility of prostitution in the country, the citizens of the country should be capable of accepting this as a valid profession. This is really difficult in a state like India, where the prostitutes or the call girls are considered to be committing a sin which is against the god. Legalizing prostitution will depend more on the citizens of the country than the government. If the citizens of the country are not fine with this profession, the government can never be successful in proper implementation and legalization of prostitution especially in the country like India.

The sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS can be proficiently controlled, if prostitutes are regulated properly, and if the prospects and precautions are sternly provided and monitored. The human inclination towards sex is uncontainable and if it is curtailed by any provisions, legislations, or any other policies, the development and growth of society take another way which will be an illegal approach. If the act of the prostitution has been legalized and prostitutes are safeguarded, then the plan and procedure can be developed to evade the sufferance of sexual diseases and proper validation of prostitution will help in the promotion of women’s well-being and health as they can have easy access to all the medical facilities which they don’t have when it’s considered to be illegal.


It is a situation where one individual is considered to be owned by another person. Slavery could be for any purposes varying from labour to chattel slavery etc. A slave is considered to be deprived of his general rights which are in possession by a normal citizen. Their rights are being determined by the person who owns them. The origin of slavery dates back to the ancient times where both the men as well as women were hired as a slave. Some jurists and scholars say that this concept is as old as the starting of the existence of human civilization. This concept cannot be said to the new society.

Slavery in ancient India

In India, the concept of slavery is not new and it still persists in some sections of the society although not prevalent much. In ancient India, the concept of slavery was widely supported and practised all over the kingdoms. The significant people of the kings’ court used to have innumerable slaves residing in the palace with them.

There are various forms of slavery which have been practised in ancient India are as follows:

Forced Labour

This form of slavery exists in current times as well. Under this form of slavery, an individual is forced to work for the employer under duress, threat, coercion, etc. The maximum percentage of forced labour comprises children. The children are forced to work on the pretext of money and food for their family and as a result, they are forced to work against their will. The children of the common people were expected to become slaves from a very young age so that they can quickly take over the position of their father or mother. The girls were forced to learn dancing and singing so that they could find a place in royal courts. They were deprived of education and knowledge. The situation has not changed at all. Nowadays the children are forced to work in those industries which are hazardous for their health.

Forced Marriages and Sex Slavery

This kind of slavery is very common in some regions of the world. Women and often teenage girls are forced to marry older men who have an affluent status in society to have a so-called guarantee of life. The main job of such confined persons is to satisfy each and every whim and fancy of their partners. Primarily, they are used as sex slaves whereby there are abused and tortured, physically, and sexually. The most common occurrences are in Middle East countries, China, North Korea, and war-torn areas such as Syria.

Law on slavery

The government of India has eventually developed the provisions for the abolition of slavery in India. It developed the system of the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of 1976. This act is developed for providing various safeguards against the bonded labour system. The most important provision of this law is Section 5 which provides that if there is any custom or agreement which exists for any of the bonded labour will be considered void and out of order. The Act punishes any individual who induces to condense any bonded labour with the conviction for a term which may extend to three years and also with a fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

Apart from this Act, there are some other provisions of different Acts which provide precautions for people from slavery.

Section 3 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 provides that no child shall be employed in forbidden from any occupations and processes. Section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, punishes any person who did not comply with the provisions of Section 3, with sentence up-to 2 years and fine up-to 20000 rupees.

The main assistance that was awarded to the bonded labourers while the commencement of the Act was that the bonded labour stood discharged from any sort of obligation to provide bonded labour. Under Section 5, any custom/agreement whereby bonded labour existed was rendered void and inoperative. 


Prostitution and slavery, although these concepts have been used normally in worldwide it’s very difficult to realize the gross violation of Human Rights involved in these acts. Lakhs of women and children in the world are subjected to prostitution and slavery. Although people claim that these two concepts are not based on any race, creed, religion, sex but the fact cannot be denied that mostly women and children are subjected to slavery and prostitution. In India, the concept of prostitution is considered a sin but it is really important to understand that no one can undergo prostitution and slavery because of their choice. Mostly the circumstances are the one which forces them to undergo prostitution and slavery. The government has developed laws for slavery and prostitution but the implementation will be effective only if there is a change in the mentality of people. But in the end, the main thing is only to protect the violation of Human Rights.


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