With an estimated figure of 20 million sex workers in the nation, prostitues are no longer treated with the royalty that they used to be in the past.
Once a theme for literature and art, with the likes of Mricchkatika and Menaka, prositution is now a profession that has become synonymous with illegality, trafficking and sex slavery. Where rape, poverty, divorce are the main reasons that force (yes, force) women into this profession, pleasure is the last thing on their minds. Prostitutes in India have up to an average clientele of 4 men a day, and the use of protection is absent only so that the women can earn a few extra bucks. Many sex workers suffer from STDs, including fatal ones like HIV/AIDs (almost 50% of the sex workers in Mumbai are HIV positive), and have to take care of unplanned children. Even though maintaining a brothel and pimping is illegal in India, many young children are kidnapped or sold by their own parents and are introduced to the sex trade industry when they are only minors. These are just some of the facts that anyone can Google and get to know of. Yet, we forget about the conditions that they barely survive in when we talk about them.
Why is it important to talk about sex workers?
India has one of the biggest sex trade industries in Asia and metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Kolkata are the biggest markets in the nation. Even though it is illegal, brothels and pimping continues to happen out in the open and many young girls are forced into the profession without their consent. This profession contributes to the larger picture in many ways and it is important we address that, and question the government. Do we have enough policies for the protection of sex workers? Do we have enough NGOs that work towards spreading awareness about STDs? Do we know enough about this profession to adequately help them? These are the questions that have remained unasked for many, many years.
Like any other humans, sex workers do as well deserve basic rights and to live their lives with dignity. But with a profession that runs of being termed as ‘nasty’, it is impossible for prostitutes to seek help of the authorities either due to fear or shame. The “oldest profession in the world” and sex workers are barely treated as humans. It is time we question, what’s so ‘characterless’ about a profession that has such a huge clientele.
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