Is prostitution legal in India?

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By Legal Referencer

The answer to the question, “is prostitution legal in India?” is “YES”, however, it is not clearly defined and also has some of the exceptions. The Supreme Court has affirmed that prostitution is a lawful profession, emphasizing the necessity of treating sex workers with dignity. In India, while there isn’t a specific law explicitly stating the legality of prostitution, engaging in private prostitution is not considered illegal. However, soliciting, public engagement, and operating a brothel are prohibited. It is crucial to note that the act of sex work or prostitution itself is legal in India, but trafficking for sexual exploitation is a criminal offense. The organized aspects of sex work, such as pimping, solicitation, exploitation, and the renting out of property for sex work, are punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

There are specific legal provisions related to prostitution and human trafficking. These include;

  • Procuration of Minor girls (section 366-A IPC).
  • Importation of Girls (Section-366-B IPC).
  • Selling of Girls for prostitution (Section-372 IPC).
  • Buying of Girls for Prostitution (Section-373 IPC).
  • Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act 1956.
  • Child Marriage Retrain Act, 1929.

Below actions are often regulated or prohibited under specific laws and statutes pertaining to prostitution in different jurisdictions.

  • Engaging in solicitation for prostitution in public spaces,
  • Conducting prostitution activities within hotels,
  • Owning a brothel,
  • Pimping,
  • Arranging for a sex worker to engage in prostitution,
  • Facilitating sexual acts with customers all fall within the legal purview concerning various aspects of prostitution-related offenses.

Is prostitution legal in India?

Also Read: WORKPLACE HARASSMENT LAWS IN INDIA is prostitution legal in India?

Table of Contents

A) History of Prostitution

1. Historical Roots of Prostitution in India:

Prostitution in India has deep historical roots, with references to sex workers found in Hindu mythological narratives, often portrayed as apsaras. This suggests that the profession has been present for a considerable period.

2. Devdasi System in Pre-Colonial India:

During the pre-colonial era, the devdasi system prevailed, wherein Hindus would dedicate their female children to God as a symbol of devotion. The term “devdasi” literally means devoted to God, and these women were considered married to the deity, exempt from marrying mortals.

3. Devdasis as Artistic and Liberated Women:

Devdasis were sexually liberated women who excelled in various art forms, including classical dance and music. Their role extended beyond religious practices to contributing significantly to cultural and artistic endeavors.

4. Impact of Colonialism on Devdasi System:

The devdasi system’s dynamics were changed by the introduction of an exploitative and suppressive regime during colonialism. The British enforced social constraints that transformed the fundamental ideas of femininity, sexual liberation, and artistic expression into ideas like bhakti and devotion..

5. Transformation of Devdasi Roles:

The colonial influence, coupled with diminishing feudalism and the end of colonial rule, led to a transformation in the roles of devdasis. Initially revered, they became susceptible to mistreatment by temple priests, paving the way for their vulnerability to sexual exploitation and poverty.

6. Exploitation and Vulnerability:

With the changing societal dynamics, the devdasis, once empowered and respected for their artistic prowess, found themselves at the mercy of temple priests. This shift in dynamics left them vulnerable to sexual exploitation and pushed many into a state of poverty.

7. Evolution of Prostitution in India:

The devdasi system, which originated as a form of dedication to God and artistic expression, evolved over time due to external influences. The exploitation and vulnerability faced by devdasis in the post-colonial era marked one of the oldest forms of prostitution in India.

B) Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA)-

1. International Convention Ratification (1950):

In 1950, the Government of India ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. Article 23 of the Convention explicitly prohibits human trafficking, making any violation of this prohibition an offense punishable by law.

2. Constitutional Requirement (Article 35):

According to Article 35 of the Convention, a law addressing the prohibition of immoral trafficking must be enacted by the Indian Parliament soon after the commencement of the Constitution.

3. Existing Legislation Disparities:

While some states have enacted laws addressing the suppression of immoral traffic, these laws lack uniformity and are not comprehensive enough. In states where such legislation does not exist, there is no legal barrier on the subject.

4. Need for a Central Law:

Recognizing the need for uniformity and a more robust legal framework, it was deemed necessary and desirable to pass a Central law that would not only standardize regulations across states but also serve as a strong deterrent against immoral trafficking.

5. Bill Features – Protective Homes Licensing:

The Select Committee introduced “The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Bill, 1956 (58A of 1956)” along with its report on November 20, 1956, to the Lok Sabha. The proposed legislation aimed to address the shortcomings in existing laws and enhance the efficacy of measures against immoral trafficking.

6. Enactment as an Act (31st December, 1956):

The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Bill, 1954, underwent amendments by the Select Committee (Bill No. 58 of 1956). Following approval by Parliament, the bill received the assent of the President, officially becoming an Act of Parliament on December 31, 1956. It is recognized as “The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 (104 of 1956).”

7. Centralized Licensing for Protective Homes:

A distinctive feature of the enacted law is the provision that restricts the establishment or maintenance of protective homes to entities authorized by the State Government. This licensing requirement ensures oversight and control, preventing the misuse of such establishments for illicit activities, particularly prostitution.

8. Deterrent Focus of the Legislation:

The overarching objective of the legislation is to serve as a deterrent against immoral trafficking. By establishing a centralized and standardized legal framework, the law aims to not only address the existing disparities in state laws but also to provide a comprehensive and effective mechanism for combating the grave issue of immoral trafficking.

9. Short Title, Extent, and Commencement:

(1) The Act is referred to as the “Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.”
(2) It applies to the entire country of India.
(3) The first section of the Act comes into force immediately, while the remaining provisions will be enforced on a date specified by the Central Government through an official notification in the Gazette.


(a) Brothel Definition:”Brothel” includes any house, room, conveyance, or place used for sexual exploitation or abuse for the gain of another person or the mutual gain of two or more prostitutes.
(b) Child Definition:”Child” refers to a person who has not yet reached the age of sixteen years.

(c) Corrective Institution Definition:”Corrective institution” is an institution, licensed under section 21, where individuals in need of correction may be detained, and it includes shelters for undertrials.
(d) Magistrate Definition:”Magistrate” is a judicial officer specified in the Schedule, competent to exercise powers as per the Act.

(e) Major and (cb) Minor Definitions:”Major” denotes a person above eighteen years, while “Minor” refers to an individual above sixteen but below eighteen years of age.

(f) Prescribed Definition:”Prescribed” means specified by rules established under this Act.

(g) Protective Home Definition:”Protective home” is an institution, licensed under section 21, providing care and protection to individuals in need. It excludes shelters for undertrials and corrective institutions.

(h) Public Place Definition:”Public place” includes areas accessible to the public, such as any place intended for public use and public conveyances.

(i) Special Police Officer Definition:”Special police officer” is an officer appointed by the State Government, responsible for police duties within a designated area for the Act’s purposes.

(j) Trafficking Police Officer Definition:”Trafficking police officer” is a police officer appointed by the Central Government under section 13(4).

These definitions clarify the terms used in the Act, providing a precise understanding of key concepts such as brothels, protective homes, public places, and the roles of various law enforcement officers. The definitions play a crucial role in interpreting and implementing the provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.

10. Punishment for Keeping a Brothel:

(1) Individuals involved in keeping, managing, or assisting in the keeping or management of a brothel face punishment upon first conviction. The punishment includes rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years, along with a fine extending up to two thousand rupees. For a second or subsequent conviction, the punishment increases to rigorous imprisonment for a term between two and five years, accompanied by a fine not exceeding two thousand rupees.
Offenses Related to Premises:

(2) This section addresses offenses related to the use of premises for brothel activities:

(a) Tenant, Lessee, Occupier, or Person in Charge:If a person, as a tenant, lessee, occupier, or person in charge of any premises, either uses or knowingly allows someone else to use the premises or any part thereof as a brothel, they are liable for punishment. Upon first conviction, the punishment includes imprisonment for up to two years and a fine not exceeding two thousand rupees. For subsequent convictions, the penalty is rigorous imprisonment for a term of up to five years, along with a fine.

(b) Owner, Lessor, Landlord, or Agent:If an owner, lessor, landlord, or their agent lets premises or any part thereof with knowledge that it is intended to be used as a brothel, or is willfully a party to such use, they are subject to punishment. Similar to clause (a), the penalties upon conviction include imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of up to two thousand rupees for the first offense. For subsequent convictions, the penalty is rigorous imprisonment for a term of up to five years, along with a fine.
Presumption under Sub-section (2A):

(2A) This subsection introduces a presumption until proven otherwise: If a report is published in a newspaper circulating in the area where the person resides, indicating that the premises or any part thereof have been found to be used for prostitution as a result of a search conducted under the Act, it is presumed, until proven otherwise, that the person referred to in clause (a) or clause (b) of sub-section (2) is knowingly allowing the premises to be used as a brothel or has knowledge of such use.

11. Provisions outlined in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, regarding the procurement, inducement, or taking of a person for the sake of prostitution:

Offense of Procuring, Inducing, or Taking for Prostitution:

(1) The section criminalizes actions related to the procurement, inducement, or taking of a person for the purpose of prostitution. The following actions are specified:

(a) Procuring a Person for Prostitution:Any person who procures or attempts to procure another person, with or without their consent, for the purpose of prostitution is liable for punishment.

(b) Inducing a Person for Prostitution:Individuals inducing someone to move from one place with the intent that they engage in prostitution, either as an inmate of or frequenting a brothel, are subject to legal consequences.

(c) Taking or Attempting to Take a Person for Prostitution:Those who take or attempt to take a person from one place to another with the intention of engaging in or being brought up to engage in prostitution are punishable.

(d) Causing or Inducing a Person to Carry on Prostitution:Any person causing or inducing another person to engage in prostitution is also considered to have committed an offense.
Punishments for the Offenses:

Individuals convicted under this section face the following penalties :Rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than seven years. A fine, the amount of which may extend to two thousand rupees.

If the offense is committed against the will of the person, the imprisonment term is extended: For offenses against the will of any person, the punishment of imprisonment for a term of seven years may extend to fourteen years.

For offenses involving a child, the punishment ranges from rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of seven years to life imprisonment.

For offenses involving a minor, the punishment ranges from rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of seven years to a maximum of fourteen years.

C) Transformative Laws: The Roadmap to Legalized Prostitution and Social Justice

1. Legal Status of Prostitution in India:

There has been significant discourse surrounding the idea of granting legal status to prostitution in India. It is increasingly recognized that rather than attempting to abolish it, regulating the profession might be a more practical approach.

2. International Examples of Regulation:

Several countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, and Wales, have opted for the regulation and legalization of prostitution. This approach acknowledges the existence of the profession and seeks to manage it within a legal framework.

3. Legal and Taxed Prostitution in Germany:

Germany serves as a notable example where prostitution is not only legal, but also subject to taxation. Brothels are permitted to advertise openly, and job offers for sex workers are facilitated through human resources companies. A 2016 legislation in Germany aimed at protecting prostitutes introduced requirements for permits in all prostitution trades and a registration certificate for prostitutes.

4. Supreme Court’s Recognition in 2009:

In 2009, even the Supreme Court of India suggested that the legalization of prostitution could be a viable and constructive step. The country’s top court’s acknowledgement highlights the necessity of reevaluating prostitution’s legal standing in India.

Is prostitution legal in India?

D) Article 19(1)(g)

Article 19(1)(g) Fundamental Right:

Article 19(1)(g) grants every citizen the fundamental right to pursue the trade, profession, or occupation of their choice. Restrictions on this right are permissible under Article 19(6) for the benefit of society, granting Parliament broad powers to legislate in the interest of public welfare.

Limitations on Unlawful Professions:

The fundamental right does not extend to engaging in any profession, trade, or business that is unlawful.
Parliament has the authority to pass laws limiting certain types of activities for societal welfare.

Objective of Restrictions:

Restrictions under Article 19(6) must be reasonable and aligned with the public interest, decency, and public order. The objectivity of the restriction’s plausibility is crucial, linking it to a legitimate public interest.

Reasonableness in Imposing Restrictions:

Restrictions must not be arbitrary but rather founded on reasonableness.
Prohibiting a fundamental right should be in the public interest, not merely based on community sensitivities.

Two Perspectives on Prostitution:

Prostitution can be viewed as both a profession and a business.
While it involves a specific skill set and can be considered a profession, the operation of a brothel is illegal in India, although individual prostitution is legal.

Public Morality and Decency Debate:

Arguments revolve around whether prostitution goes against public morality and decency.
Sex work, considered a profession, falls under the reasonable restrictions of Article 19(1)(g).
In India, the determination of obscenity relies on the Hicklin test, assessing whether material tends to deprave and corrupt those exposed to it.

Hicklin Test and Obscenity:

The Hicklin test, established in Rv. Hicklin, determines obscenity based on its potential to deprave and corrupt susceptible minds.
Sex work, often conducted in private spaces, is argued not to have a corrupting influence on society.


1. section 366-A IPC

Kidnapping or forcing a woman into marriage is a crime that is covered by Section 366-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This section was enacted with the intention of safeguarding women’s autonomy and freedom from the peril of forced marriages and human trafficking. The clause particularly addresses the kidnapping or luring of a woman against her will with the goal of marrying her or compelling her to engage in any illegal sexual activity. The fact that the offense is cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable demonstrates how seriously the law takes these kinds of offenses. The emphasis on the woman’s consent is one of Section 366-A’s main features.

This section allows for the prosecution of anyone who takes a woman against her will with the intention of marrying her or engaging in any other illegal relationship. The law values women’s agency and works to stop coercive behaviors that restrict their ability to select a life partner. Imprisonment is one of the penalties for violations of Section 366-A, and the length of the sentence depends on a number of variables, including the woman’s age and the type of offense. The offender may also be subject to fines. The harshness of the clause highlights society’s dedication to defending women’s rights and dignity by attempting to establish a legal barrier against such abhorrent behavior.

2. Section-366-B IPC

The criminal offense of importing a girl from a foreign country with the intent to force her into an arranged marriage or involve her in any illegal activity is covered by Section 366-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This clause aims to stop human trafficking and shield vulnerable people from exploitation, especially girls. The illegal transportation of girls across national borders for reasons that violate their autonomy and fundamental rights is at the heart of Section 366-B. The section makes it illegal to force a girl to agree to a marriage or to engage in any illegal activity after her importation. This covers actions that could result in forced labor or sexual exploitation.

The statute makes crimes covered by Section 366-B cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable in order to reflect their gravity. These legal characteristics highlight the harsh penalties that offenders who commit these crimes face. Penalties for violating Section 366-B include imprisonment, the length of which is based on the offense’s particular circumstances and the girl’s age. The offender may also be subject to fines. The goal of the provision is to deter international trafficking and the exploitation of weaker people, in line with larger initiatives to stop violations of human rights and safeguard girls’ wellbeing and dignity.

3. Section-372 IPC

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) contains Section 372 which deals with the sale of minors for the purpose of prostitution or illicit relations. The serious problem of human trafficking is addressed by this legal provision, which focuses on the use of minors for commercial sex. The fundamental principle of Section 372 is that it is illegal to sell minors—those under the age of eighteen—in order to use them for prostitution or other illegal activities. This section aims to prevent minors from being used for illegal or immoral purposes, acknowledging their vulnerability.

Since the violation of Section 372 is deemed egregious, severe legal repercussions are appropriate. This provision highlights the seriousness of crimes pertaining to the trafficking and exploitation of minors by making them cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable. This legal position is consistent with global and national initiatives to stop human trafficking and defend children’s rights. Imprisonment is one of the penalties for violating Section 372; the length of the sentence is contingent upon the minor’s age and the specifics of the offense. In addition, the offender may be fined, which helps to discourage such despicable behavior. In conclusion, the legal commitment to prohibiting the sale and exploitation of minors for immoral purposes is reflected in Section 372 IPC, which is in line with larger initiatives to end human trafficking and protect the rights of minors.

4. Section-373 IPC

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits purchasing minors for the purpose of prostitution or any other illegal activity in section 373. This legal provision is essential for addressing child exploitation, especially when it comes to commercial sex and human trafficking. The main goal of Section 373 is to make it illegal to hire or buy the services of minors in order to use them for prostitution or other illegal activities. This section acknowledges the susceptibility of minors and endeavors to safeguard them from being abused by those who would take advantage of them for unethical or illegal intentions. The legal ramifications for violating Section 373 are severe and the offense is regarded as serious.

The severe nature of offenses involving the trafficking and exploitation of minors is reflected in the provision’s cognizability, non-compoundability, and non-bailability. These legal characteristics highlight the dedication to deterring and penalizing similar offenses. Prison time is one of the penalties for violating Section 373; the length of the sentence is contingent upon the minor’s age and the specifics of the offense. In addition, the offender may be fined, which helps discourage others who purchase minors for the purpose of exploiting them. In conclusion, in line with larger national and international eff., Section 373 IPC is an essential component of the legal framework to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of minors.

5. Child Marriage Retrain Act, 1929

The principal aim of the Child Marriage Restriction Act, 1929, also referred to as the Sarda Act, was to curtail the widespread custom of child marriages in British India. Underage marriages are a social problem that the Act attempted to address because they have negative effects on young brides’ health, education and general well-being. Restrictions on the solemnization of marriages involving individuals under a specified age was the main goal of the Act. Following an amendment, the Act’s legal age of marriage was raised to 21 for men and 18 for women, with the original provisions applying to Hindu brides under 14 and Hindu grooms under 18. The Act’s goal in outlawing child marriages was to shield young people from the negative effects of early marriages on their physical and mental development.

This would allow them to grow up, make their own decisions, and get married when they were emotionally and physically ready. The law was a reflection of society’s larger commitment to advancing children’s welfare and resolving the negative consequences of child marriage. In an attempt to end the destructive practice of child marriages in India, the Act’s provisions have been reinforced over time by additional legislative amendments.

F) Benchmark Cases

a)  Gaurav Jain v. Union of India

Background of the Case – Gaurav Jain v. Union of India[4]:
The case revolves around a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Gaurav Jain after reading an article titled “Red Light Trap” in India Today magazine. The petitioner sought specific interventions to improve the living conditions of the descendants of prostitutes.

Petitioner’s Prayer:
Gaurav Jain’s plea focused on the provision of separate dormitories and vocational training schools for the children of prostitutes. The main object or purpose was to create an environment conducive to their well-being and integration into mainstream society.

Concerns for Children’s Living Conditions:
The petitioner highlighted the unhealthy living conditions experienced by the descendants of prostitutes and further argued that separate accommodations should be provided to them so that it will improve overall quality of life of them. The emphasis was on creating a space where these children could be integrated into the broader community.

Court’s Emphasis on Prostitution Elimination:
The court, acknowledging the concerns raised by the petitioner, expressed a commitment to the elimination of prostitution. This reflects a broader societal concern and a recognition of the challenges faced by individuals involved in the sex trade.

Directive for Vocational Training Homes:
In response to the petitioner’s plea, the court issued a directive for the establishment of vocational training homes for young people. PIL is further aimed at providing  educational and skill-building opportunities for the descendants of sex workers, contributing to their empowerment and future prospects.

Separate Dormitories for Children:
The court, in consideration of the living conditions of the children, also ordered the creation of separate dormitories for them. This was a strategic move towards ensuring more supportive and conducive living environment, potentially shielding them from the challenges associated with the sex work industry.

Review Petition by Supreme Court Bar Association:
Following the court’s directives, the Supreme Court Bar Association, in collaboration with the original petitioner Gaurav Jain, filed a review petition. The objective was to seek a revaluation of the nature and scope of specific constitutional sections, including sections 32, 142, and 145(1), and to reexamine the directive for the eradication of prostitution.

Court’s Decision on Poverty Eradication Directive:
The court, upon review, decided to overturn the directive related to the eradication of poverty. This indicates a nuanced understanding of the complexities involved in addressing poverty within the context of sex work.

b) Kajal Mukesh Singh And Ors vs The State Of Maharashtra [7]

The case involves a clarification by the Bombay High Court regarding the legal stance on sex work, emphasizing that the law aims to protect sex workers rather than criminalize them.

Legal Position on Sex Workers:
The Bombay High Court clarified that the law does not criminalize individuals engaged in sex work. Instead, its focus is on safeguarding sex workers from sexual exploitation for commercial purposes.

Prohibition of Sexual Exploitation:
The law specifically prohibits activities associated with sexual exploitation for commercial gain. This includes offenses such as pimping, recruitment, or seduction in public places, indicating a commitment to preventing the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

Illegality of Brothels:
The ruling made clear that running a brothel or permitting property to be used for prostitution is prohibited. This demonstrates the legal position opposing organizations that enable the exploitation of minors for profit.

Recognition of Sex Workers as Victims:
Importantly, the court acknowledged that individuals who trade their bodies for money are viewed as victims rather than perpetrators. This perspective recognizes the vulnerability of sex workers and aims to protect them from exploitation.

Focus on Support Systems:
The Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, as mentioned in the judgment, doesn’t criminalize the act of prostitution itself. Instead, it targets the support systems that enable and facilitate prostitution. This nuanced approach aims to address the root causes and those who exploit vulnerable individuals.

Debates on Legalization of Prostitution:
The paragraph acknowledges the historical and ongoing debates surrounding the legalization of prostitution.

Link to Economic Circumstances:
It notes that poverty or compelling circumstances are often the primary reasons people engage in prostitution.

Prostitution as a Profession: A Social Perspective
Asking whether society is prepared to accept prostitution as a legitimate career, the text invites social contemplation. It highlights prevailing attitudes in society around sex work and raises important concerns regarding the options open to those in precarious situations.

c) Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal [5]

With its significant ramifications, this historic ruling brought about a new level of awareness and defense for those involved in sex work, bringing to light both their vulnerability and the pervasive social stigma that surrounds their industry. Fundamentally, this landmark decision recognized the inherent right of sex workers to live with dignity—a fundamental principle protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution—and acted as a catalyst for defending their rights. The ruling explored the core socioeconomic issues that those engaged in sex work face, going beyond legal nuances.

The case revolved around the recognition of the predicament faced by sex workers, exposing an unpleasant truth: a significant number of them are forced into the industry not voluntarily, but rather because of the severe hold of poverty. Recognizing sex workers as victims of their circumstances and humanizing them from the standpoint of economic necessity rather than personal preference, this acknowledgement helped to humanize the industry. In addition, the verdict highlighted the subtle social stigma that is associated with sex work. It brought to light that people who work in the sex industry should not be denied their basic right to a dignified life because of the prejudice that society has against their profession.

It was a powerful declaration opposing prejudice and criticism based on one’s profession and calling for a more sympathetic and perceptive social structure. Essentially, the Budhadev Karmaskar case transcended legal petty issues and turned into a human rights advocacy and a lighthouse of empathy and understanding. The legal framework became more inclusive by recognizing the rights of sex workers to dignity and the particular struggles that marginalized communities face. The legal rights of sex workers were safeguarded by this historic ruling, which also encouraged a wider examination of societal stereotypes related to this industry. Regardless of the course that a person chooses in life, it represented a major step toward creating a society that values each person’s dignity.

d) State of U.P. v. Kaushailiya, (1964) 4 SCR 1002; AIR 1964 SC 416

Background of the Case:
The respondents in six appeals were alleged prostitutes conducting their trade in Kanpur.
The City Magistrate issued notices under section 20(1) of the Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956, on information received from a Sub-Inspector of Police, who was not a Special Police Officer.
Legal Proceedings:

The respondents objected to the proceedings, claiming their legal non-maintainability.
The Magistrate rejected the objections, leading to dismissal of their revision petitions by the Additional Sessions Judge. The High Court, citing violation of Articles 14 and 19(1)(d)(e) of the Constitution, allowed their revision.
Appeal to the Supreme Court:

The State appealed to the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court’s decision.
Contestations and Arguments:

It was argued that information received by the Magistrate need not be solely from a special police officer designated under section 13 of the Act.
Concerns were raised about uncanalized powers conferred on the Magistrate, potentially leading to arbitrary interference in the lives of alleged prostitutes, violating Article 14.
Section 20’s alleged unreasonableness in restricting the movements of prostitutes and deporting them was also contested, claiming a violation of Article 19(1)(d) and (c).
Supreme Court’s Verdict:

The Supreme Court clarified that the term “information” in the Act isn’t restricted to that provided by a special police officer. Any source of information is deemed relevant.
The Act outlines a clear policy, guiding the Magistrate in deciding the fate of alleged prostitutes through a judicial process with opportunities for representation and evidence.
The Court rejected claims of uncanalized power, emphasizing the Magistrate’s role in deciding specific questions within a defined legal framework.
It affirmed that reasonable classifications, such as distinguishing between different categories of prostitutes, are permissible under Article 14.

Reasonableness of Restrictions:
The Court stressed that restrictions under section 20 are in the interest of public health and morality, considering the urgency to control the vice of prostitution in public places.
It upheld the reasonableness of the restrictions, dismissing the notion that they infringe fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(d) and (e).

Precedents and Legal Basis:
The Court referred to established legal principles, including Chintaman Rao v. State of Madhya Pradesh and State of Madras v. V. G. Row, to support the reasonableness of the restrictions.

The Supreme Court held that section 20 of the Act does not violate the Constitution, affirming the reasonableness of the restrictions imposed in the interest of public welfare and morality.

G) Conclusion

Normalizing sex work as a profession is necessary. Don’t stigmatize sex workers. In addition, they are human beings who ought to be respected and treated with dignity, particularly in light of the work they perform. Trafficking of women and children must not be a part of sex work. In the country of India, prostitution is prohibited if it is not voluntary. It’s also forbidden to brothels and approach men for dates. There is still much to be done to update the laws pertaining to sex work. Regarding the legality of prostitution, nothing is stated clearly. That contention has been presented by the court in a number of its rulings. Education about contraceptive methods and their appropriate usage must be provided to sex workers.

It is also necessary to educate them about the various Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) that arise from not using contraception. Since they work in the sex industry, Indian sex workers face discrimination and difficulty accessing health care. In government hospitals in particular, they may be refused admission if they do not have HIV medication or forced to undergo STI testing when they become ill. Private healthcare providers are preferred by sex workers over government healthcare providers who have received advocacy training, according to a survey. A number of factors contribute to the difficulty in obtaining health care, including the high cost of abortions, financial barriers, the precarious lives of many working women, and hospitals that send women to see their husbands for authorization to have an abortion. They frequently aren’t.

D) FAQ’s

1. Is prostitution now legal in India?

While there isn’t a specific provision expressly stating the legality of prostitution, trafficking remains illegal. Prostitution’s historical presence in India dates back to ancient times, with its origins tracing back to the era of the Mughals. During this period, women were utilized by kings and ministers, marking the early stages of this practice within the country. The legal landscape concerning prostitution and its status remains nuanced, with a historical backdrop that influences its contemporary treatment within the Indian legal system.

2. Which country has most legal prostitution?

The legal and societal approaches toward prostitution vary significantly across different countries. Some nations, like the Netherlands and Germany, have notably permissive policies regarding prostitution. Consequently, these countries serve as significant hubs for international sex tourism. Amsterdam, in particular, gains global recognition for its famous prostitution windows, drawing attention as a prominent aspect of the city’s identity within the realm of international sex tourism.


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