This article is written by Debolina Ghosh. She is an independent Law practitioner and has done LLM in International Human Rights Law from Queen Mary University of London.



Prostitution has always been a problematic affair in the world for centuries. The prostitution of a woman is one of the world’s ancient professions since the existence of organized societies. However, it is also one of the most condemned professions. The sound judgment of a practical approach to the term would be that it serves as an attribute for any sexually sinned woman. Prostitutes are generally taken as sexual beings representing unbounded sexuality. It brings disputes between the general identification of sexual acts with desire and reproduction. It is always considered as a threat to undermine the existing social system and thought to have the potential to destroy the traditional norms and values of the word. Therefore, a prostitute is always subjected to control, watch of an indecent gaze before the law and several legal analysis.

My concern in this particular area arose during my early twenties while passing by the streets of Asia’s largest brothel Sonagachi in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. I do not remember the entire scene of that day but one thing I distinctly remember and have never been able to remove from my memory was the time I saw a beggar sitting on the footpath. She was in her 50s or 60s begging and I bent to put a coin in her bowl beside her thighs, and I noticed something terrible. Something no young girl should see. I remember her posture where she had stretched her one leg, and another was folded, and in between was plastic bag half covered with her clothes with some blood stains, the blood stains made me curious, and I asked her what was that, to which she answered, it was her uterus! Seeing me shocked and scared she sarcastically smiled to me and told that’s normal because she was one of the prostitutes from Sonagachi and generally when they cannot serve the purpose they are left out for begging on the streets, more the pity conditions more the alms for their survival.

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This incident was my first experience of an inhumane scenario regarding a prostitute’s life which changed my perception about Prostitutes and made me realise that how one massive section of females in this 21st century is not considered a human even, after serving themselves as an object to another human for years. Hence, I selected this topic because prostitution is considered as an indecent act and conflicts with the validity of the general view that opposes eroticism and economic life. In South Asia prostitutes are taken as non-social beings, looked down as sex objects, leading to bar Prostitutes’ from having rights to live as a human. 

The South Asian region or the Indian Subcontinent has one of the largest populations of the world. When we look into the background of prostitution in the Indian Subcontinent, we will find its existence in Indian mythology, where celestial demigods act as high-class prostitutes, who are symbols of perfect feminine beauty and charm, and referred to as Meneka, Urvashi, Rambha etc. very commonly known to everyone. A system of holy prostitute became common in various temples, where parents offered their girls in service of temples and God, who was given the high rank of honour known as Devdasis and Mukhies. Slowly the system started to be misused for immoral purposes by greedy priests and their exploitation began. The profession of prostitution proliferated under the reign of Muslim ruler Aurangzeb, ‘tawaif’ which means prostitute and ‘mujra’ which stands for dance performance by prostitutes, was quite famous during Mughal emperorship. The Mughal Kings had Harems, which consisted of thousands of mistresses. After the downfall of the Mughal Empire in this sub-continent and due to the economic crisis, these women having no other option started to trade in sex. Eventually, the place of women worsened. The British regime did not do any help to improve their situation either and continued its downfall.

During partition and post-partition, the conditions of the women in this profession deteriorated drastically, and being sexually exploited and boycotted by the social and human acceptance mainly became their fate. This region is one of the most significant areas struggling with Human Trafficking, huge and most primary part of it is Prostitution. To show the difference between human trafficking and prostitution, it would get very complicated, but to its basic understanding about Prostitution, it directly relates to sexual exploitation and the sex trade of woman, teenage girls or female children, whereas human trafficking includes all forms of exploitation and has no gender bar. Though its principal part is about sexual exploitation, it also includes different types of slavery. The primary focus of this paper will be on Prostitutes and prostitution.


This piece of work will focus on understanding the causes and consequences of prostitution present in the South Asia, its effects on the society and majorly to understand the social and legal aspects and remedies, helping them to lead a healthy life. The prime object behind conducting the study on this topic is to understand different aspects of the lives of prostitutes with a particular emphasis on the South Asian countries and its counters, i.e. size, dimensions, effects and various steps taken to control it.

Furthermore, this topic emphasizes on the insight of socio-legal facets of prostitutes and their lives in South Asian countries, i.e. India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This research addresses significant issues such as violence, pain, probable choices, liberation and the importance of the ill-founded approach of regional legal systems that have contributed to the marginalisation of the problem. The aim would be to untangle the issue of silence and maim that prostitutes undergo and understand their right to Life. It would point out how the regional legal system has failed to provide basic human rights to the prostitutes of this region and how much they deserve to have it. This negligence apart from being injurious to public order and security, it will also demonstrate how preventing the rights of prostitutes can considerably compromise the economic stability of nations and, therefore the global economy as a whole.


The first section of this paper would focus on understanding the complete scenario of prostitution in South Asia. This section would start by describing three real stories of women in prostitution from three different countries of South Asia that would give awareness of several aspects of prostitution and its effects on the women in the profession. Their instances will open up to the complex issues of this region and explain why and how the prostitution industry has widened up in this part of Asia. It would then describe in details the network of the sex industry and its operation in this entire region. It will define the functions of the Sex trade in different countries of South Asia and explains what the primary trends of Prostitution are, and how women and girls land up in the prostitution business. Hereafter, the essay will explain the cognisance of the prostitution market and its various kinds, where we will find how this vast industry of sex trade exists through legal and illegal channels. Furthermore, the section shall give deep and detailed insight into the conditions of the prostitutes and explains the miseries and sufferings of prostitutes and how their sufferings reflect a major violation of human rights. It will eventually reveal the effects of prostitution on the women in this profession and violation of their human rights, and how are they prevented from their fundamental rights in the society and struggle to live a healthy life of a human.

The third part of this paper will be discussing the regional and international approach towards the epidemic of prostitution and the legislation relation to prostitution in different countries of South Asia. Within this chapter, the first section will be discussing multiple legal Articles and sections related to prostitution under the legal system of several countries of South Asia. Followed by an argument of how those legislations have failed to protect the basic human rights for prostitutes in the region. To provide a detailed idea, two significant cases from India, the largest country and one of the reputed legal systems of South Asia shall be discussed to bring out the flaws and how the supreme judicial body has been blind towards the issues of prostitutes. Then it shall explain about the legalisation of prostitution to prevent human right violations and show how the efforts to legalise prostitution have failed and how the government has been insensitive towards the problems faced by the prostitutes in the region. Post this; the dissertation discusses the significant actions and steps taken by the International bodies, their different policies and conventions to protect prostitute’s rights. Later it outlines how decriminalising is the most critical factor that needs to be imposed in South Asia and how various International bodies has advocated and supported this.

The Fourth and the final part of the research will provide a summary of the entire dissertation and shall focus the probable measures which shall include not only the legal measures but also the social measures for the prostitutes. The dissertation shall conclude by discussing and pointing out actions and explaining my opinion to show how it is crucial to work for the prostitutes in South Asia to provide them with a better life and human dignity to bring balance in the society and the Nations as a whole.

Understanding Prostitution in the South East Asian Region 

As mentioned above in the introduction, we can prove that Prostitution has existed in the South Asian Region from the ancient period of the time. The essence of it was different at the beginning, where women in this profession were given a high place in society and respected, but over time, this act of women changed its meaning to a job within the sex trade industry and deteriorated them from an esteemed position within society to as low as boycotting them from general human or social acceptance. This part of the essay will provide a detailed understanding of Prostitution and its various social and human rights issues through the few real scenarios of some women in this profession. 

Elements of Conductive Prostitution 

The deterioration has gone to such extreme that in the 21st century, where women are living as equal as a man and the world is fighting for equal rights for women, the prostitutes of this region are not being treated as human even, This will be proven through the real stories of the women in prostitution. The following are three scenarios of prostitutes from the South Asian Region:

Scenario 1

Manju Biwas, who is a prostitute in Kolkata, India, had not entered this profession by choice. She was sold at the mere age of 13 for $30 by her neighbour. She was then drugged by the brothel keeper and raped, later pushed into the prostitute market. She mentions that 10-15 men would visit her per day. Whenever she protested against the inhumanity imposed on her or the humiliation, not only that her money would be taken away but cigarettes would be stub out on her body.

Scenario 2

Shetra from Barisal, Bangladesh, a child prostitute, entered prostitution at the age of 13. Her father died when she was six years old; they are four people in the family, two of them are her young little sisters. Her mother works as a maidservant, which does not pay her enough to meet the basic need for all four of them, so in a bid to help, Shetra, started working as a maid, but she was physically assaulted during that work and given just one meal a day. She then turned to prostitution and begun working as a sex worker, which her mother has no knowledge of. She got into this profession through a close family friend whom she called ‘uncle’, who takes her to the different hotels to visit clients and also exploits her sexually. She is paid half or less amount than promised, and she does not use condoms as she cannot afford it. She is mostly sent to satisfy middle-aged men, she feels pain during the act and also in her menstrual cycle. She wants to stop this profession but is stuck as her family depends on her to help secure money and food.

Scenario 3

“No man would like to sleep with me. I have nothing to offer to them! Yet, I am forced to sell my body. I come to this street every day and offer sex to men for 50 to 100 rupees. Some pay me a thousand rupees. Some sleep with me free of cost and steal my money.” – Sundari Nepal (name changed). Sundari’s age is 55 who is from a mountain village of West Nepal; she had a very rough life, which begins from her marriage at the age of 12, her husband’s death and then betrayal from her sons. During these hard days, she found a girl child abandoned in a hospital, to whom no one accepted, and she decided to adopt her. She wanted to raise this little girl, her family and her sons had closed all doors for her, but she promised herself to live for the little girl. A painful and betrayed life from her own family and being uneducated and helpless she had only one option that is prostitution. She exploited her sexuality and earned through prostitution to provide a life for the little girl she promised to protect. 

The sex market in Asia is multiplying and has now taken various forms, which is making it increasingly complicated, with numerous sub-sectors. Most of the studies and surveys including unreliable sources that sex trade is becoming common and involves a massive number of people around this continent, who work as a network. The sex trade has proliferated in past decades and has been started to be recognised as a commercial sector that contributes to employment and income source in the South Asian region. The table below demonstrates India’s range of complex reasons that lead women to join prostitution. 

Reasons for entry into sex trade

Reasons for joining

Total number

Total percentage

Acute poverty






Family dispute












To understand why Sex Trade Industry is widening up and not shrinking in spite of having an extreme inhumane nature, we need to look into the above mention three scenarios of women in prostitution from different countries of the South Asia. If we read the three scenarios carefully, we would find the factors such as rape, marriage, poverty, being born as a girl child, lack of social acceptance etc. leads the to the growth of sex industry in this region illegally. We can see that these scenarios of prostitution reflect what the societies of this region is currently facing, some important complex and basic issues which forces women in the region to take up prostitution or are forced into it by others can be understood as follows:

Kidnapping or Abduction

Kidnapping and abduction is a prevalent way to procure women and girls for the Sex Industry. Young girls in their teenage years or below and innocent young females are abducted or kidnapped from their native places or small villages in the name of marriage, jobs, education, work or better livings, and sold into the prostitution market. Generally, it is found that the kidnappers are females, close family friends, neighbours etc. At least 67,000 children have been reported as missing in India in between 2013-2014, 45%of whom were minors trafficked into prostitution.


Rape is the most heinous act of human race that exists on this earth, but what is more to rape is the tribulation of the rape victim. Rape is considered as an extreme social stigma in South Asia. Hence, the victims go through series of sufferings, starting from not being accepted in their home or family, downgaze amongst the peers, never being married or having a family of her own, to being easily targeted for further sexual exploitation. In this situation, the victim search for a safe place and with no other alternative to find they move towards prostitution or to end their lives. In India, which covers around 80% area of the South Asian region, 38,900 rape cases were reported in 2016. The numbers of child rape have also gone up drastically, where the report reveals 43% of rapes cases were minor abducted girls for the sex trade. About 8% of girls have entered prostitution due to incest, where the victims are exploited at home or by their closed relatives or family friends, not finding any safety in the safest place called home, they land into prostitution.

Child Marriage

Child Marriage refers to a marriage of two individuals who have not reached the legal age of marriage, where the parties being underage and immature cannot give their free consent to the marriage. In South Asia, in spite of local governments adopting a strict legal structure to prevent child marriage and boycott this act from the society, this malpractice persists. Though this practice affects both girls and boys, but the sufferings of a girl are greater than that of a boy. Girls in remote areas have no exposure to different life options for their future and accept marriage as their fate.

Families place social pressure to the girl for economic reasons, and marriage is considered to be the best option for a daughter’s safety and financial security. South Asia was found having the highest numbers of child marriages in 2012, half of the world child marriages have been accounted for in this region. There is a high connection between early marriage and wife abandonment, leaving women unguarded to enter prostitution. Sundari Nepal’s life story (from the above mentioned scenario) is the prime example of how her child marriage kept her away from being educated and exploring other life options which made her incapable of doing other jobs for living and when she was abandoned by her family, she had no other choice than entering the prostitution. In some places, child marriages are also a way to procure underage girls for prostitution.

Poverty and Inequality 

The most striking attribute of South Asia is its poverty; the percentage of people living below poverty, i.e. $1.25 per day has decreased tremendously from 44.1% in 2002 to 24.5% in 2011. South Asia hosts nearly half the world’s poor population. This data provides evidence that millions of people in this region cannot even meet the basic human needs for survival which is food, shelter and clothing, therefore education does not yet come into existence for them. It is observed in various studies around the globe that poverty aggravates the significant imbalance in the societal setups. It raises the vulnerability of the weak and receiving end of the gender, i.e. women and children. South Asia is a patriarchal society. Hence, the affected gender in the families and communities of the countries in this region is women, girls and children. The second Scenario, where we see Shetra from Bangladesh getting trapped into prostitution because of this evil disease of South Asia called poverty. And it can be imagined easily that if the percentage of poverty is higher, how many girls like Shetra would be taking the same stride in their lives. 

Cultural and religious beliefs

As mentioned in the introduction, the history of prostitution is ancient in South Asian countries. Practices such as ‘Devdasi system’ and “tawaif” had existed in these areas since ages. In the old days, these practices gave women high status in the society. But the scenario of it has completely changed in the present globalised era. It is no longer practised for religious or cultural purpose rather religion and culture is a cover to procure young girls for prostitution. Girls born in these practices are looked down upon and eventually forced to engage in the same profession similar to their mothers.

Sex Trade Network

From the above discussion, we can extract a basic understanding of why the prostitution network is so extensive in South Asia. And to get more clarity on how it operates the entire scenario, we need to look into the working of its markets in different countries and the general trend of Sex trafficking network which majorly is about the prostitution business in this region. 

The following is the general pattern and trend of sex trafficking in South Asia:

  • A large number of young girls in this profession are procured from rural and urban low-income families.
  • It has been observed that the cluster of males who exploit and prostitute are also child abusers. The majority of sex trade takes done by ordinary men to exercise power and enforce masculinity on the vulnerable.
  • The women and girls from minority groups experience abuse in their communities, which results in an increase in trafficking from ethnic minority groups. 
  • Control on trafficking routes is by crime syndicates.
  • The technology boom has helped the trafficking market to operate with ease and lesser restrictions, e.g. pornography, bride trade etc.
  • The vast migration of females for domestic work and entertainment industries, which provides an easy route to the traffickers.
  • Use of prostitution in legal occupations and businesses undercover like hospitality, tourism, health, entertainment etc. 
  • Continual incapability of regional governments and international communities to address the issue.
  • Enormous lobbying of the sex industry in various ways.

The following sections highlight the country specific trend and practices relating to human trafficking in South Asia:


India is seen as the State where all these pitiless practices have occurred. Most cases have a female offender who powers other ladies and young ladies into trafficking. Bangladeshi ladies and youngsters are trafficked to India or travel through India on the way to Pakistan and the Middle East for reasons such as sexual misuse, local bondage, and constrained work. Nepalese ladies and young ladies are trafficked to India for sexual abuse, social bondage, and constrained work.


Pakistan is the route for trafficked people. Ladies and young girls are trafficked to Pakistan from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Nepal, and Central Asia for business sexual misuse and reinforced work. Young ladies and ladies from rural zones are trafficked to urban habitats for business sexual abuse and labour. Women trafficked from East Asian nations and Bangladesh to the Middle East regularly travel through Pakistan. Men, ladies, and youngsters are trafficked to the Middle East to fill in as fortified workers or in residential subjugation. More laborious implementation endeavours in Pakistan and the prohibition on youngster camel moves in the United Arab Emirates are accepted to have lessened the quantities of young men and women trafficked through Pakistan for that reason.


Afghanistan has been moving children and women for slavery and sexual exploitation, these women and children are trafficked to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, often with the consent of the families, who are given false promise of providing the victims with better life abroad. Over 200 Afghan children were repatriated from Saudi Arabia in early 2004. Women and girls are trafficked by fraudulent proposals, kidnapped and prostituted in the countries they land, they are also trafficked internally for the same reasons and often for settlement of debts and disputes or forced marriages.

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan State is a source nation for ladies who are trafficked to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar for the reasons for constrained work and sexual abuse. Fewer Thai, Chinese, and Russian ladies were trafficked to Sri Lanka for business sexual misuse. Ladies and kids are trafficked inside for household and sexual subjugation. Young men and young ladies are casualties of business sexual misuse by paedophiles in the sex tourism industry.


Nepal is a source country for girls and women trafficked to India for prostitution, domestic servitude, forced labour, and work in circuses. Many victims trafficked to India are lured with promises of decent job or marriage. Family members sell other victims or kidnap them by traffickers. Women are trafficked to Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries, as well as the Hong Kong and SAARC for domestic servitude. Internal trafficking for forced labour and sexual exploitation also takes place.


Bangladesh is a country of origin and transit for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, involuntary domestic servitude, and debt bondage. Prostitution in Bangladesh has been lawful since 2000, albeit debilitated. Tyke prostitution is far-reaching. Bangladesh is dominatingly Islamic, yet regardless of strict limitations, extreme poverty has constrained numerous ladies into prostitution. Female sex labourers are frequently manhandled. Presently, notwithstanding, they have started to sort out. One gathering, the Prostitute Association of Faridpur, was established in Faridpur area, close to the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. These affiliations were framed to build up an “association” among sex labourers and shield themselves from being manhandled. In the interim, Islamic traditionalists transparently blame the ladies. The radicals consume whorehouse to the ground, harming ladies and leaving the more significant part of the inhabitants down and out. The trend and networking of this region show that the market of prostitution is rampant and the demand for women prostitution is enormous. 

Structure of Prostitution Market 

Prostitution also plays to the Economics principle of supply and demand, which can be analysed in different ways. The cultutral, political and economic areas can help to explain the supply and demand principle for prostitution in this region. Though Prostitution is illegal in most of the countries in South Asia, it functions smoothly on a large scale. India has the largest economy in this region, is also the world’s largest democracy, which gives it political upper hand in this region and the multi-diverse society make ways for it to function undercover, so in short, it can be said prostitution in India has a widespread market. To throw more light, let us look into different types of Prostitution majorly functioning in India a, which raises demand for women prostitution from other neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc. and interlink other countries of this region. The various types of prostitution can be precisely divided into the following parts:

Brothel Prostitution 

The data reveals that prostitution is more than $8 billion industry per year in India, having over 10 million commercial sex workers out of which over 2 million are prostitutes and approximately 2,75,000 brothels function daily in this country. Brothels are present in almost all the citites and towns of India. Cities such a Mumbai and Calcutta hold the largest brothels of the country. Kamathipura in Mumbai and Sonagachi in Kolkata employ highest numbers of prostitutes. In Mumbai, one of the areas is called ‘the cages’, where, women are displayed day and night inside 4’by6′ feet windows called ‘pinjra’ which means a cage. Most of the women in Mumbai prostitution are Nepalese, and a large number of Bangladeshi girls are found in brothels of Calcutta. The life expectancy of these women is less than 50years, due to having no access to proper food or medical facility and the violence imposed upon them.

Street Prostitution 

Street prostitution regards soliciting customers on the street and taking them to an assigned place in the red light areas. The top eight largest redlight areas in India are Sonagachi in Calcutta, Kamathipura in Mumbai, Budhwar Peth in Pune, Meergunj in Allahabad, G.B. Road in Delhi, Chaturbhujasthan in Muzaffarpur, Itwari in Nagpur and Shivdaspur in Varanasi. If we pass by the street near these areas, we can easily witness women standing on the streets dressed up differently for public display like a sex object and attract customers.

Escorts and Call Girls 

Unlike brothels and street prostitutes, female escorts and call girls do not display their profession to the general public or work through the usual institutions such as brothel. They are employed by agencies, where they operate using a telephone, mobile phones, internet etc. They also use the print media such as newspapers and magazines to advertise themselves; the clients have to book a prior appointment and accordingly make visits as whatever is agreed on by both parties. These girls are handled by pimps too. This form of prostitution is generally used in the upper classes who can afford to hire prostitutes. 

Other types of undercover prostitution 

There are multiple prostitutions that operate in surreptitious forms. It can be understood in the way of Ladies Bar Clubs, Mujra dancers or Massage Parlours. Mujra is an ancient form of courtesan clubs functioning from Mughal era in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; it is not a striptease act, it’s a simple dance form where men toss money notes towards the chosen girl and eventually sex service is traded without anything spelt out. Ladies bars are a remarkable place especially in Mumbai; it is like a place where Bollywood fantasy comes live. In these bars, women dance and entertain people, and men throw cash on them, though soliciting women here is restricted, men can get the woman’s contact and pursue them outside the club.

Club dancers are frowned upon in society since they come from lower income groups often get involved in prostitution for money through this channel. Prostitution through massage parlours has become one of the significant challenges for local governments to deal with, women are exploited and forced into prostitutional activities by promising a job in massage parlours, rising sex tourism and globalisation in Asia has resulted in this form of prostitution. Here, the prostitution operates under the cover of legal hospitality and service industries and growing with every passing year.

Conditions of Prostitutes 

Until now the essay has explained an insight into the world of Prostitution in the South Asian region. Now, it will explain the miseries and sufferings of the Prostitutes in this region. From the day a woman gets involved in prostitution and enters this dark industry, be it due to whatsoever reasons, her miseries and suffering start and continues to multiply until she dies. It would not be wrong if it is said that once a woman enters the world of prostitution, all her doors towards life shut off forever. This section of the dissertation would discuss the challenges that women and girls face in prostitution and how vulnerable their life expectancy is as a human. It is strenuous to explain what the kind of coercion the prostitutes face in the dreary world of Prostitution in South Asia. I am taking a chance to demonstrate their agony through my words below hoping that it would give an overview to the real miseries they suffer every day.
                Click Above


Prostitution can be life-threatening. A ‘prostitute’ is considered to be an object, a fake female body to fulfill sexual desire. A prostitute’s feelings and emotions are irrelevant. They are just a commodity to sell sex. The emotional and psychological quotient of prostitutes on their being used as a sexual commodity is never discussed. In the first scenario mentioned above, she mentions ’10-15 men a day’, which is not only a physical trauma but an emotional assault. Her story tells that she responds to the situation as dissociation. Dissociation is a response to traumatic events that occur during extreme pain where the mind detaches from its emotional and psychological states. This phenomenon is generally observed in war prisoners, rape victims, sexually abused children and prostituted women. The customers use a prostitute as an object to try several unnatural sexual acts that they cannot demand from their legal partners; these acts are practiced by different men on them every day without any question of consent.

In South Asia there is a higher demand of ‘virgin’ girls in prostitution, they are auctioned at a higher price to be used as an object to satisfy male ego. It is also observed that ‘virgin girls’ are on high demand because men in this region have a superstitious belief that STDs can be cured if they have sex with ‘virgin girls’.Any virgin girl, being used as a sexual object without her consent, itself is an inhumane act of trauma that will never be erased from her memory. Depression, mood disorders, dissociative etc. are common in prostitutes.

In the third scenario, she mentions that she has nothing to offer to men but yet she is forced. This indicates that she has developed a dissociative disorder which allows her to cope up the with psychological pain, and the data above shows there are millions in these same situation. Maybe dissociation has become the best tool for the prostitutes to survive the day to day trauma of their life. This is something we hardly look into when discussing aspects of a prostitute’s life which arise from the first incident of being commodified and continues forever. Furthermore, they are degraded so much that they no longer have courage and self-confidence to feel like a human.

Abuse and maltreatment

As discussed earlier, it is noted that the prostitution in South Asia has high demands of young and underage girls. Examples such as first and second scenarios demonstrate how dark the prostitution world is. Girls of little age 11-15 are brought into this profession, who are not only sold for sex but raped and drugged before pushing them into prostitution by the pimps, managers and other male involved in this business. These young girls are injected with chemicals to bring faster physical growth in their bodies. Adult prostitutes are often beaten if they protest, sometimes beating becomes fatal, they are forced into abortion, and if they give birth to a girl child, the child is pushed into the same profession. It is horrifying to know that rape is a regular act in the prostitution world.

Abstained from basic rights 

Prostitution is not accepted as work in South Asia, instead considered immorality which threatens general public lifestyle and contaminates it. This stigma results to denial of fundamental rights to the prostitutes. The prostitutes live in dark rooms, which is also the place where they perform sex work. Brothels of South Asia have poor sanitation facility, which makes the life of all the prostitutes difficult as women. The foods they can afford to, depend on their income. In short, prostitutes hardly have any fundamental rights in this region.

Health and Medical Issues 

Prostitution has immediate circumstances and results linkages to the spread and transformation of the AIDS infection which is a major issue of this profession. Ladies and youngsters, casualties of sex trafficking in South Asia have a high commonness of HIV and different STDs. India has one of the biggest HIV‐positive populaces on the planet in supreme numbers. Other countries in the area, for example, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal are portrayed by a low HIV commonness among the all-inclusive community yet have fundamentally higher rates among high‐risk gatherings, for example, infusing drug clients and those occupied with the offering and purchasing of sex.

The following points are worth noting to understand the how dangerous are the situations for the prostitutes regarding their health and wellbeing in this region: 

  1. South Asia sees a disturbing pattern of progress, more than 60% of those trafficked into sex work is youthful young ladies in the age gathering of 12– 16 years (UNDP, 2005). There are an expected 2,000,000 prostitutes in India, and 60% of these ladies in prostitution in Mumbai are HIV positive, which is a scary fact for the society as a whole. One common fantasy fuelling the interest of young ladies in South Asia is that sex with a virgin can fix sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and HIV/AIDS, which make young girls highly vulnerable to AIDS. 
  2. Ladies of any age are more probable than men to end up contaminated with HIV amid unprotected vaginal intercourse. This sexual orientation weakness is unusually intense for young ladies.
  3. The developing hazard of sex tourism and pedophilia has likewise involved genuine and crucial worry for the region.
  4. Regional poverty powers individuals to move from towns to urban communities and starting with one nation then onto the next looking for work. Numerous vagrants are known to purchase sex yet do not use condoms or approach data surveys, which is dangerous for the society and a Nation as a whole.
  5. A large population of Nepali young ladies are working in Indian houses of ill-repute and an expected 5000– 7000 young Nepali ladies trafficked yearly to India. Nepal risks an expanded pandemic because of a functioning sex exchange and high rates of young lady trafficking to India for sex work.
  6. Condom use among Bangladesh’s 36,000 sex specialists differs in the vicinity of 4% and 28%. More than 95% of 15-19 years old Bangladeshis do not have a clue about any strategy for HIV avoidance. 
  7. Sri Lanka is prestigious as a pedophile’s heaven and their numbers increases consistently. Sri Lanka among ninth-grade understudies found that 63% could not name a single method of HIV transmission and 75% could not distinguish a unique strategy for HIV counteractive action.

Other than the danger of HIV and AIDS, the general wellbeing of women in prostitution is in danger and consequences incorporate not only sexually transmitted sicknesses but also fiery pelvic illness, hepatitis, tuberculosis and other transferable infections; undesirable pregnancy, constrained premature birth, and abortion‐related confusions; assault and other physical ambushes; a large group of mental and enthusiastic medical issues including bad dreams, a sleeping disorder, and self-destructive propensities; liquor and medication mishandle and dependence; and even suicide and murder.

Safety and security 

Prostitutes not only face physical, emotional and sexual violence or health related issues, they also face state violence. Laws and policies in this region that include criminalisation of prostitution increases the vulnerability of prostitutes to become a victim of abuse by the State representatives such as prison guards, military or border guards and above all police. Fear of harassment and arrest; restrict them to seek help from the administrative or legal representatives. Apart from the regular vulnerabilities of their prostitution life, these issues challenge the safety and security of women in the prostitution industry in no small extent.

Violation of Human Rights Law for Prostitutes 

From the above section, we can observe that prostitution frequently endure severity that outcomes in physical, sexual, and mental injury. The consequences of prostitution stretch out to its casualties as well as to the overall population, and also to the individuals who visit these places, and who can progress toward becoming bearers or potentially centre transmitters of certain infections. The ruthlessness of trafficking and prostitution brings about the sexual, physical and mental injury. Physical health insecurities, assaults and different physical ambushes effect on the wellbeing of an individual; a large group of mental and enthusiastic medical issues including bad dreams, a sleeping disorder, and self-destructive inclinations; liquor and medication manhandle and compulsion; and even suicide and murder are frequently found in this profession. These collectively, are massive violation of human rights of an individual or all women in this profession.

The Right to Life

The Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the Right to life under International Law, which obligates not just States but also every individual in the world. The first scenario mentioned in the beginning of this part, is an essential example of a violation of this Article. Where we find that the girl was first raped and then drugged before entering her into prostitution, and later in the profession she mentioned that she is forced to sleep with ’10-15 men’, which is a complete form of torture and beyond human physical limitations, and above all what is more important to notice is her age. 

The Right to Liberty and Security of a Person

The Article 9 of ICCPR states:

  1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. 
  2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.
  3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.
  4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.
  5. Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

These above points of the Right to Liberty and Security of a Person are an alien word for prostitutes of South Asia. The weak law frame in this region not only takes away the right to Liberty of the prostitutes in this region but also make them victims of State violence and arrests. Prostitution being criminalised in this region does not provide the freedom to prostitutes to enjoy their liberty, and upon that the stigma of prostitution in the societies of this region makes them the victim of violence and legal downgaze.

Effects on General Human Rights

Every form of contemporary female slavery is prohibited by Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “[n]o one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Additionally, Article 4(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter “ICCPR”) declares the right to be free from slavery under Article 8 to be a non-derogable right. It is a right that has acquired the status of jus cogens under the customary international law. ICCPR Article 8(1) and (2) respectively, states that “[n]o one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited,” and that “[n]o one shall be held in servitude.” Considering all the above discussions regarding the conditions of prostitutes in this regions, we can say these UNDHR Articles and many other Articles related to Human Rights Law for any women on this planet, does not apply for the prostitutes of South Asia. 

Human-rights violations which are in coexistence with violence against prostitutes in this region are:

  • extortion of money, refusal of payments or cheating of salary
  • denial of basic necessities and food
  • forcibly giving or injecting drugs or any intoxicating elements
  • randomly stopped and subjected to a body search or detained by police
  • arbitrarily held in detention centres, police stations etc.
  • threatening to arrest for carrying condoms
  • denial and refusal of health care services
  • forcibly subjected to health procedures like HIV testing, abortion, sterilization
  • degrading or shaming publicly
  • depriving of sleep

So far we have observed that lack of education, reliance, brutality, social disgrace, social generalisations, sex dissimilarity and endemic poverty, among different variables, put ladies and kids in feeble, non-debatable circumstances that have added to the development and reproduction of the enormous issues and growth of prostitution and trafficking in this whole area. It is also observed how objectifying a human being, reducing her to a commodity to purchase, is an abusive act of power and violates the person’s human dignity and obliterates her human rights. We also find that how human right for children such as ‘right to life, survival and development’, ‘right to be heard’ or ‘right to the 4Ps (Protection, prevention, provision and participation)’ are eliminated from the life of under aged girls in the prostitution world. Violating human rights begins by degrading a person’s humanity and reducing her into an object. In prostitution, the object becomes a commodity for market exchange, like any other object on the market. We maintain that rendering a human being into an object by buying someone for sexual use is a violation of human rights.

Respect to human dignity is one clear principle of the International Bill of Human Rights, where the prohibition of torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to life both have an immediate link to the principle of human dignity. Article 5 UDHR states ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment’. According to Article 3, ‘[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person’, the right to life has been considered the ‘supreme right’ and ‘the fountain from which all human rights springs’. But these seem to an elusive dream for the women and girls in Prostitution in South Asia. In the next section, we shall look into regional and international human rights and legal approaches for the prostitutes in South Asia. 

Approach and legal aspects of Prostitution in South Asia 

Non-Success of domestic legislation 

South Asian countries have mixed legal systems that draw on common law and/or civil law traditions, combined with customary or religious laws and civil law traditions. For example, Islamic sharia law operates alongside civil law or common law in some countries, India has a common law system combined with separate personal law codes that apply to Muslims, Christians, and Hindus, Pakistan’s legal system combines common law and Islamic law, Nepal’s legal system combines Hindu legal concepts and common law and Sri Lanka’s legal system combines civil law, common law and customary law. The following table in brief will shows the legality of sex work in South Asia:

Legality of Adult work in South Asia:


Sex work in private


























Generally not prohibited but exceptions apply









In spite of having multiple Legal barriers on Human trafficking and prostitution in the South Asia, numerous women and girls are suffering an immense violation of Human rights, not only that they are forced in this profession but also their sufferings within the job. To understand this part, I would mention some legal cases from India which shall provide clarity to the given circumstances.

As discussed earlier, India has the most significant land mass in South Asian Region and the human trafficking and prostitution industry is massive in this country. Exchange of sex for money is legal in India, whereas other activities which include managing or owning a brothel, soliciting in a public place, child prostitution, pandering, kerb-crawling, pimping are illegal. 

Prostitution-related Laws in India 

Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act-1956

Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act-1956

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act-1956

India enacted The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act (SITA) which was later amended to The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956 (“ITPA”) which mostly deals with Prostitution parts:

Section 3: Punishment for keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel.

(1) Any person who keeps or manages, or acts or assists in the keeping or management of, a brothel, shall be punishable on first conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than three years and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent to conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than five years and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

(2) A any person who, 

(a) Being the tenant, lessee, occupier or person in charge of any premises, uses, or knowingly allows any other person to use, such premises or any part thereof as a brothel, or

(b) Being the owner, lessor or landlord of any premises or the agent of such owner, lessor or landlord, lets the same or any part thereof with the knowledge that the same or any part thereof is intended to be used as a brothel, or is willfully a party to the use of such premises or any part thereof as a brothel, shall be punishable on first conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which fine which may extend to two thousand rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine.

(2-A) For the purposes of sub-section (2): it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that any person referred to in clause (a) or clause (b) of that subsection, is knowingly allowing the premises or any part thereof to be used as a brothel or, as the case may be, has knowledge that the premises or any part thereof are being used as a brothel, if, 

(a) A report is published in a newspaper having circulation in the area in which such person resides to the effect that the premises or any part thereof have been found to be used for prostitution as a result of a search made under this Act; or

(b) A copy of the list of all things found during the search referred to in clause (a) is given to such person.

Section 5: Procuring, inducing or taking person for the sake of prostitution.

(1) Any person who-

(a) Procures or attempts to procure a person whether with or without his/her consent, for the purpose of prostitution; or

(b) Induces a person to go from any place, with the intent that he/she may for the purpose of prostitution become the inmate of, or frequent, a brothel; or

(c) Takes or attempts to take a person or causes a person to be taken, from one place to another with a view to his/her carrying on, or being brought up to carry on prostitution; or

(d) Causes or induces a person to carry on prostitution; shall be punishable on conviction with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than seven years and also with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, and if any offence under this sub-section is committed against the will of any person, the punishment of imprisonment for a term of seven years shall extend to imprisonment for a term of fourteen years: Provided that if the person in respect of whom an offence committed under this sub-section:

(i) Is a child, the punishment provided under this sub-section shall extend to rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years but may extend to life; and

(ii) Is a minor; the punishment provided under this sub-section shall extend to rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and not more than fourteen years.

Indian Constitution enshrines the right to be free from exploitation as its fundamental right to every person and trafficking in a human is strictly prohibited. India was one of the parties to the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others 1949 and also to implement this treaty within its domestic Legal system, The SITA of 1956 which was amended to ITPA 1986 is its evidence. In spite of all these legal steps to prevent prostitution and protect women and girls, numerous women and girls are forced into this profession and forced to live and work in this job like slaves. The victims of Prostitution are mostly 10-14 years old, and others are trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal etc. The massive growth of the numbers of women and children being pushed into prostitution and forced to live in this job, show the rampant violation of the domestic legal system and also the violation of International Human Rights. This section shall argue how the Supreme Court of India has added to marginalise the difficulties of human trafficking and prostitution in women and girls due to its legally insupportable and inconsiderate approach.

Indian Penal Code

The Constitution of India, 1950 incorporated many parts of Indian Penal Code, and the problem of trafficking in person was inscribed in IPC, which prohibited trafficking of women and girls into coercive prostitution in India and direct harsh punishment for guilty parties. The IPC states that anyone who buys or sells or obtains possession of anyone under the age of 18 years for “the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse…” or for an “unlawful or immoral purpose…” or “knowing it to be likely that such person will at any age be employed or used for any such purpose…” is subject to imprisonment for up to ten years. Indian Penal Code identifies cross-border trafficking into prostitution, prohibits the import of women and girls for any kind obscene or illicit acts.

The IPC defines rape as the act of sexual intercourse with a woman when the act is against her will, without her permission, or without her consent, when her consent has been obtained by threats or fear of death or injury, or with her consent when she is incapable of understanding the consequence of her consent, or with or without her consent when she is below sixteen years of age, the provision concerning to rape under the IPC applies also to rape of a brothel inmate. When we observe these laws here and also mentioned in the first section of this part, we find that the application of these laws or the offenders would be brothel staffs, owners, customers and clients who are engaged in prostitution businesses and sexual exploitation with minors or with women in a brothel without consent and under threat or force but nothing is mentioned about the protection of women in prostitution.

Domestic Legislation: SITA(1956) AND ITPA (1986)

India imposed SITA which later was amended as ITPA as mentioned earlier, to give effect to constitutional assistance and to furnish a bond with the Trafficking Convention. The critical part of this Law is that the Act was made with a sole purpose of giving effect to the International convention and enabling domestic legislation, which is exclusive and not found in another case of human rights instances in India. However, it can be stated that SITA discriminates against victims and punish them contrary to the Trafficking Convention. In India, SITA or ITPA, neither of them aim to the abolish prostitution. SITA defines that prostitution can be carried on only by women or girls and provides punishment in the way of imprisonment if engaging in prostitution by any women or girl is found within a distance of two yards of any public places.This section shall note the inadequacy of the law SITA and ITPA through some bench mark cases given below:

Case I

In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Kaushaila, six appeals were filed before the Full Bench of five Justices of the Supreme Court by the state government of Uttar Pradesh which raised the question of the contravention of these constitutional provisions by Section 20 of SITA. Stating the facts, in the case shows that the respondents were alleged prostitutes engaged in activities around the City of Kanpur. The City Magistrate had issued a show cause notice to the respondents under Section 20, questioning as to why they should not be forced to be removed from the places of their residence and barred from reentering. The City Magistrate rejected the respondents’ objection, and later the Additional Sessions Judge in Kanpur dismissed their revision petitions altogether. 

While writing a congruent decision of the Supreme Court, Justice Subba Rao dismissed many of the crucial grounds mentioned by the High Court in support of their decision. This Supreme Court decision discriminated against victims of prostitution on based on prejudice. Justice Rao further defined “intelligible differentia” in this case by simply stating: “[t]he differences between a woman who is a prostitute and one who does not certainly justify their being placed in different classes.”In their arguments, the justices appear to be convinced completely that the issue of prostitution is the sole creation of the prostitutes and that once the prostitutes are suppressed, the problem will be solved and the reasoning is as unrefined as to say that the easiest way of getting rid of poverty is to banish the poor. The arguments of “intelligible differentia” to support discrimination against prostitutes by showing their inferior and degraded status compared to that of non-prostitute women is wholly incomprehensible, discriminatory, inconsiderate, and fallacious. And also a violation of International Human Rights Law.

Case II

In the appeal of Begum v. State, Judge Patel touched the central nerve of the problem of prostitution in India. In the beginning of his judgment, Judge Patel hints that instead of being insensitive toward victims of prostitution, the State should be looking at options to provide them with alternatives. Though Judge Patel dismissed the “threat to public peace and safety” argument against “prostitutes” and suggested that the threat is greater from “goondas” (hooligans) who are likely to resort to violence. However, the Supreme Court did not try to disapprove the arguments logically given by the High Court; instead, they quashed the decisions and wrongly upheld the law. This added up to the discrimination and forceful suppression of the women and girls in prostitution.

The above mentioned two cases of India reveals the Lack of consideration of the humanity aspect for the prostitutes on the part of the highest Legal body of the country, which would by default look into the human right elements of the prostitutes if incase it would be considered. If Supreme Court would think about the abolishment of prostitution from its societies, then it should have voided the provisions supporting prostitution and would have imposed banned on the profession, as pointed by the High Court in the case mentioned above. It could have also suggested other strict alternatives to implement criminal laws to punish those who are gaining profit from prostitution. The entire approach of the legal bodies seems complicated and confused in regards to prostitution in India. It seems the Supreme Court was not prepared to take a firm decision to look for a long-term solution to address the problem of prostitution.

Looking into the Law on prostitution from different countries of South Asia and considering the regional approach through the above mentioned two cases in India, we can find that it is essential to legalise prostitution in the region, to avoid human right violations of prostitutes and to provide them with their fundamental right to life. 

Efforts to Legalise

India had taken steps towards legalsing prostitution. Two Bills in the Maharastra Legislative Assembly were introduced in 1989 and 1994, in an effort to legalise prostitution. To meet the objectives of the Bill 1989, the provision laid out are: 

Compulsory registration of all prostitutes in the state with the state authority; minimum age clause of 21 years; that the person in charge of the brothel should display a list of the prostitutes in the brothel with their ages. Every woman registered will be medically examined once every three months. If these clauses are not met, offenders are liable to prosecution. 

The provision of the bill stating women in prostitution are to be registered and subjected to compulsory medical examination, violates the most basic human rights. It does not indicate what tests will be initiated or say who will bear the expenses; it was an ambiguous Bill that makes it possible for the state to subject woman in prostitution to any undergo any medical examination or experiment. Another Bill introduced in 1994 was a high degree of complexity, called the 1994 Maharastra State of Commercial Sex workers Bill. The preamble states: 

It is mandatory for them to register with a board constituted by the government. The board is to be responsible for welfare schemes for the benefit of the sex workers and shall be the consenting authority in civil and criminal cases filed against the sex workers. (Section 4) Failure to register with the board is liable to imprisonment up to seven years. The committee will ensure that women in prostitution will be subjected to periodical and compulsory medical tests for STDs.

The Bill stigmatises women in prostitution rather than providing them protection and violates WHO guidelines. Although these two bills have not been passed but they indicate legislative deformation towards the issue of prostitution in India.Legalising prostitution in South Asia is very crucial to avoid human rights violations but at the same time, it is a highly complex measure to implicate. Though legalising shall enable to track records of sex workers and the sex network that runs undercover in this region. It shall help women in prostitution to get medical aids and can have control and prevent HIV and AIDS from being spread. Above all the prostitution industry needs to be accepted as other industries and safeguard it legally for the overall welfare of the society and the Nations as a whole. The profession receiving legal acceptance shall benefit prostitutes and eventually the community. The following are some of the benefits of legalisation of prostitution:

  • The Sex industry will stop sex trafficking which will lead to a considerable reduction in the abduction of children and kidnapping of innocent women for prostitution in remote areas of this region. 
  • It enables a close check and control of the sex industry and shall help the society by revealing and stopping undercover prostitution and eventually protecting underage girls from betting trapped in this profession. 
  • It will help in decreasing clandestine, all illegal forms of prostitution and street prostitution, and reduce prostitutes to be used as objects and displayed on streets. 
  • Above all, it will give women in prostitution their civil and legal rights.

Other regional approaches and laws 


In Bangladesh, Prostitution is lawful, women who enter this field must enlist and swear a statement that expresses their consent of entering this profession and that they cannot locate other work. The Bangladesh constitution gives that the “State will attempt to counteract betting and prostitution.” Different arrangements of various laws disallow kid prostitution, constrained prostitution, requesting and the keeping of houses of ill-repute. There are various Correction Code like Area 290 (Offense Influencing The General Wellbeing, Security, Accommodation, Fairness And Ethics), Area 364A (Offence of a hijack or stealing of individual under ten), Area 366 A and Segment 373 (Section to give protection to girls under eighteen), Bangladesh also has Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, to prevent human trafficking from the country.

Sri Lanka

Prostitution is forbidden by Law in Sri Lanka, and any kind of related exercises are banned like procuring, soliciting etc. The country struggles with the issues of human trafficking and sex tourism in spite of having restrictions on prostitution under its Legal framework. 

Legal circumstance 

Quite a bit of Sri Lanka’s law on prostitution goes back to the times of English Law. The Vagrants Law was presented in 1842. Two areas are significant to prostitution: 

S2- Discipline of people carrying on wildly or cluttered in general society avenues. Each carrying on in a crazy or cluttered way in any open road or throughway will be at risk to a fine not surpassing five rupees. 

S7- Requesting and demonstrations of foulness out in the open spots. 

  • any individual in or about any open place requesting any individual with the end goal of the commission of any demonstration of unlawful sex or foulness, regardless of whether with the individual seeking or with some other individual, whether determined or not; 
  • any individual discovered conferring any demonstration of gross foulness or discovered acting with net profanity, in or about any open place. 

Area 360A of the Punitive Code characterises and forbids getting, Segment 360B Manages the sexual misuse of kids and Segment 360C manages human trafficking. Also, Segment 365A (grave sexual offences), reinforces the enactment of sex with youngsters and trafficking.


As mention earlier in Part two of this essay, Pakistan is a source for trafficked people. It has an indescribable prostitution culture that exists as an open puzzle yet wholly unlawful. The sex trade is viewed as illegal in the country on account of the announcement of extramarital sex as a degenerate activity. Most inspectors see desperation as a primary factor in driving women towards an occupation, for instance, prostitution. Prostitution has no legal affirmation in Pakistan. Under Segment 377 of the Pakistan Correctional Code, whoever unyieldingly has “real intercourse against the demand of nature with any man, woman or animal” will be repelled by 100 lashes and from 2 years to life confinement. 

The outstanding parts of the segment of the present Pakistani law are Segment 371A and segment 371B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which states:

371A: Offering individual for motivations behind prostitution, etc. Explanations– (a) When a female is sold, let for employ, or generally discarded to a whore or to any individual who keeps or deals with a house of ill-repute, the individual so discarding such female will, until the point when the opposite is demonstrated, be dared to have discarded her with the goal that she will be utilized with the end goal of prostitution. (b) For the reasons for this segment and area 371B, “illegal intercourse” implies sex between people not joined by marriage.

371B: Purchasing individual for motivations behind prostitution, etc. Explanation– Any whore or any individual keeping or dealing with a house of ill-repute, who purchases, employs or generally acquires ownership of a female will, until the point that the opposite is demonstrated be ventured to have gotten ownership of such woman with the aim that she will be utilised with the end goal of prostitution.

Sexual relations between two consenting grown-ups were not wrongdoing in Pakistan before 1979. Law restricted just the inclusion of minors in prostitution. Later the Zina Mandate was authorized, and extramarital sex turned into a criminal offence. 

In the 1950s, “moving young ladies” were legitimised as “craftsmen” in a High Court arrange. Hence they were allowed to perform for three hours at night. This is the main lawful cover they have gotten till date. Other fleshly exercises, shady areas of town and houses of ill-repute stay illegal business and work as an open mystery let be by offering colossal entireties in pay off to the police. Numerous zones in Pakistan like Heera Mandi in Lahore and no Chungi in Sargodha are Govt. authorised territories and police secure them because of some political reasons.

International Approach

In 1949, the most punctual UN tradition on trafficking did not characterise prostitution but instead depended on this past understanding as it tried to dispense with ‘unethical trafficking in ladies’. In the beginning of 1970s, concerns about trafficking was connected only with prostitution and sexual misuse. Women’s activists led the counter-trafficking development, driven by concerns about sex tourism in South-East Asia, the positioning of vast quantities of US military faculty, and mail arrange ladies and ladies were crossing fringes for prostitution or potentially work in media outlets. At that point when South Asian activists began to investigate the circumstance in their district, it was cross-fringe prostitution – especially of Nepali and Bangladeshi ladies and young ladies attracted to Indian whorehouses – and tyke sexual misuse by travellers in Sri Lanka.Numerous social scientists have indicated the commonsense challenges of figuring out who is a trafficked individual and who is a financial vagrant. It is still a major complexity in the prostitution world of South Asia.

SAARC emphasizes on the evil of trafficking in women and children for the purpose of prostitution, which is incompatible with the dignity and honour of human being and violation of basic human rights; and has as of late, designated a team to look in the matter of trafficking. SAARC’s accentuation stays on law implementation, making a local police power to capture human bootleggers and enhancing removal techniques. Except if the SAARC tradition is corrected little, should be possible to improve the lives of those influenced by trafficking or by measures to react to it. 

Various recommendations have been laid down by Governments and international agencies such as the United Nation bodies to combat the issues of prostitution around the world and in South Asia. The 64th session of the Charter of United Nations mentions its purposes and principles in relation to prostitution and trafficking, that it strongly condemns the trafficking in persons, especially children and women, as it constitutes a serious threat to human dignity, human rights and development. Some resolutions taken by United Nations to address the issues of prostitution and trafficking are UN launching UNGIFT (the Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking), UNTOC was established to combat transnational organised crimes including trafficking and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) by OECD which also stretches hand to help prostitutes. The UN has also taken initiatives to make the people understand the concept of prostitution, its overall impact on the economy and the need to make some amendments to existing laws relating to the rights of prostitutes. The United Nations have developed a global plan of action against trafficking in persons that will:

  • promote universal ratification of UNTOC and its Trafficking protocol, as well as other relevant international instruments that address trafficking in persons and reinforce the implementation of existing instruments against trafficking in persons,
  • help the Member States to reinforce their political commitments and legal obligations to prevent and combat trafficking in persons,
  • promote comprehensive, coordinated and consistent response, at the national, regional and international levels, to counter trafficking in person,
  • promote human rights and gender and age sensitive based approach while addressing all factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking in persons and strengthening the criminal justice response which are necessary to prevent trafficking in persons, protect its victims and prosecute its perpetrators,
  • raise awareness within the UN system and also among States and other stakeholders such as the private sector, civil society and the international and national mass media and the public at large,
  • foster cooperation and coordination among all relevant stakeholders including the Member States, international organisations, civil society organisation and the private sector, and within various entities of the UN system taking into account existing best practices and lessons learned.

The significant step by the UN would be a call for the decriminalisation of prostitutes in South Asia. First U.N Study shows that criminalisation of prostitution has affected lives of prostitutes across Asia and aggravated HIV epidemic. The UN survey shows that 48 countries across Asia have afflicted the safety and health of prostitutes and their families due to their prostitution laws. Researchers say countries where prostitution is banned, the women working in prostitution are more vulnerable because their work is stigmatised and illegal, the removal of legal penalties would give them better access to medical treatments. Human rights lawyer and author of the report John Godwin says countries that inscribe a less punitive approach also curtails human-rights violations and health risks of prostitutes. He says basic efforts to work with police and local authorities will bring progress in a healthy work environment for sex workers. Researchers say decriminalising sex work in those countries would further improve the situation for prostitutes and their daily life.

Prostitution in South Asia has become a critical and complex human right issue, to look into it through the standards of international human rights perspective it is essential to decriminalise the prostitution in this region. Futher, International bodies such as WHO, UNAIDS and Amnesty International have advocated and voted in support of decriminalisation of prostitution and with an explanation on how crucial it is to address this complex issue by decriminalising it. These groups have found that criminalising prostitution is a blockade to stop trafficking and abuse on prostitutes and spreading of HIV or AIDS, which has also been pointed out in two of the cases from India in the earlier section of this part. Amnesty International, a global human rights organisation which accesses the best preventive measures of human rights violations, has supported decriminalisation of protitution globally. It also mentioned that it is vital to look into the most vulnerable group of people in the world who are often denied fundamental human rights and forced to live outside the civil and legal protection.

Amnesty advocated all aspects of consensual adult sex work which does not involve exploitation or abuse, from real-life pieces of evidence and experiences, the cases such as Begum v. State in the Bombay High court mentioned above give light to this aspect. Amnesty’s advocacy was based on extensive research into life experiences of sex workers and prostitutes in different countries and under legal contexts, it explains and supports that Trafficking is a violation of human rights and must be criminalised as a matter of International law, but does not consider that women who are forced in the prostitution business should be punished, and instead these women deserve protection from the legal bodies of their respective countries. Amnesty also strongly supports that people who abuse and exploit prostitutes or sex workers must be criminalised, but in reality those laws which criminalises ‘brothel-keeping’ and ‘promotion’ which we can find in most of the countries of South Asia, mostly arrest and prosecute the sex workers and prostitutes and not the those who exploit them. 

From the above-explained international and national legal approaches, the result is that Legalisation and decriminalisation of prostitution in South Asia is the most appropriate approach to address the human rights violation issues and protect the fundamental rights of prostitutes and give them the dignity to live like a human. Numbers of NGOs including DMSC and the VAMP in India who work for prostitute rights are working towards making prostitution legal. Indian Women Movements has been focusing on the legal rights and violence against women in prostitution and initiated various campaigns to amend laws. Other South Asian countries struggle to bring change in legal systems through mass movements, and the primary reason is economic backwardness. South Asia is facing the major issue of economic imbalance, the countries in this region does not give importance to the problems of people falling under vulnerable groups like prostitutes and keep a blind eye towards them.

As mentioned above, the International bodies such as Amnesty and WHO is supporting and advocating for the decriminalisation of prostitution worldwide. We can find hope for South Asia if it is accepted as a principle of international Law. Also, if the United Nations can make it mandate for every legal system in the world to amend its laws to promote a decriminalisstion process, then it shall be a new beginning for the women and girls working in prostitution in South Asia to find a ray of hope towards life.


With all the above discussion, the dissertation summaries that Prostitution in South Asia is both a reason and an outcome of human rights infringement, due to which this region is battling sex trafficking and prostitution to align it with rational rights-based methodologies. We also see that South Asia deprivation, acute poverty and tradition leads to women disempowerment and leaves them with fewer choices than accepting prostitution as their fate. However, the numerous complex issues of this region cannot be summed up in one factor of poverty, coercion etc. It is essential to look into the entry of women and girls in prostitution of this area in multiples ways and examine the reasons that push them into this profession. If we mark the anti-prostitution laws of these areas, we find they are not designed to prohibit prostitution instead control and regulate the prostitutes and their bodies. In addition, the purpose of these laws is not concerned with improving the problems of women in prostitution. The health concerns for prostitution by the law bodies in these countries rises only when it affects the public health(sexual health). Women in prostitution find that the Laws are not of any help to them and there is little agreement on legalisation and decriminalisation of prostitution, which would benefit the prostitutes. 

In South Asia, the connection between prostitution/sex trafficking and HIV is multiplying than at any other time. The nexus between poverty, HIV, and the trafficking of women and children inside and crosswise over outskirts is making ever‐widening circles of instability that undermine the lives and further ruin the poor through the ailment, loss of job and dismissal by society. Along these lines, it is getting critical to receive rights, defensive procedures in fighting the wrongdoing of sex trafficking, decreasing vulnerabilities of the women in prostitution. Women in South Asia enter or accept prostitution for economic and social reasons; it is also their survival strategy against the poverty and deprivation, the poor women in this region have no choice other than choosing marriage at an early age, domestic and labour work or sex trade.

Finally, through the above discussion in this research paper, I would like to mark the future trends of the phenomenon of prostitution:

  • The increase in poverty due to globalisation shall lead to the rise of women and children pushed into prostitution.
  • The increase in surveillance on prostitutes of this region due to state policies centred on issues of HIV/AIDS, which shall result in an increase of state violence on prostitutes.
  • Continuation of the stigma of the women in this profession will prevent them to exit the job or will not stop their kids from entering it, as the stigma itself indicates the contradiction of the society on this issue.
  • Women who are already in the profession shall be continued to be trafficked from one country to another.
  • The numbers and forms of brothels will continue to increase.
  • The governments’ focus being on traditional prostitutes and existing brothels will lead the undercover and prostitution under legal services to continue growing.
  • The harassment of the residents of the traditional red- light areas will keep existing.

The above indicates that the epidemic of prostitution in the future shall not be taken care off in many ways shortly, or human rights for prostitutes in this area are an illusionary dream. In my opinion, all nations in the region should sign and confirm the imperative UN Trafficking Protocol and other United Nations instruments that address human trafficking and related issues, for example, constrained work, child work, compelled prostitution or gender‐based separation. Likewise, consider the United Nations Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking and urge all states to review the report when contriving and fortifying their particular national anti‐trafficking systems. The local Legal fraternities should come together in accordance with International Human Rights Law and amend the policies and articles regarding prostitution and place some strong Law for protecting rights of prostitutes in the region. Apart from Regional and International legal emphasis, the vital part that needs massive change is social ‘mind set’. The people in societies of South Asia have a preconception that the women in prostitution are low graded and should be rejected from social acceptance, prostitutes are just an object of sexual pleasure, and their job is the dirtiest job to be taken. When I discussed my topic with people from my native, I experienced the glimpses of same ‘mindset’ as their feedback, but I am glad that this dissertation helped me to erase the all prejudice ‘mindset’ for prostitutes. 

Lastly, in my opinion, this ‘mindset’ issue can be challenged and considered to change, if the scholars, social researchers, activists, journalist, policymakers and the Law bodies join hand in hand, keeping in mind the maim and sufferings of young girls and women in prostitution as human beings and not just a prostitute. And above all, the most important effort would be that we as individuals consider prostitutes as human first and not judge them on their profession. But the irony of our civilized society is that a ‘criminal’ has a right to have a fair trial or for that matter even a ‘terrorist’, but a ‘prostitute’ is considered an object in the human form. 



Brown L, Sex Slaves (Virago 2001)

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