In the earliest days of slavery, while slaves would be toiling away in cotton fields, their owners would come and bodily pick away the females for sexual gratification. In the west, mulattos with lighter skins were preferred. In India, many an adivasi or impoverished woman has fallen prey to the lusts of their masters. They still do, mostly rented for sex in the slave market or sold into prostitution.
This history repeats in cycles. Those who support prostitution have never been prostitutes or remotely involved in that trade; so they are seldom exposed to the atrocities inflicted on the women in brothels. And prostituted women who do speak in favour of prostitution argue that it is a profession like any other, and that, it sometimes helps empower women.
But the fact is that a sex war continues to be waged against women around the world since time immemorial. To try and pass this off as the world’s so called oldest profession is to deceive people; it is no different from the most ancient form of torture; not just against an adult woman but also the girl child. The statistics are staggering.
In 2013-2014, half of India’s missing children were sold into prostitution. Forty-five per cent of the 67,000 abducted children were trafficked and sold to brothels, using every possible kind of force, ranging from violence to severe mutilation, rape and threat of execution.
To satisfy the lust of men for a few moments with their tiny bodies, these minors and young women are forced to sacrifice any hope of happiness they might ever have had. They are being stripped of dignity and denied their rights as humans.
Red light areas, as prostitute quarters are euphemistically known, continue to abound in this democracy. The most ugly, heinous, malicious, villainous, obnoxious and lowest forms of behaviour possible by men are meted out to women, making criminals out of these men. So, whoever argues for legalising prostitution is actually arguing for a legal protection for perpetuating the inhuman behaviour on sex workers.
India has about 1.5 crore sex workers – a demography which is higher than the combined population of many small nations. In several cases parents sell their daughter to escape poverty. Some others were hustled by lovers and husbands into brothels for a livelihood.
Prostitution is inextricably linked to human trafficking. They complement one another. Those who claim that all women in sex quarters are adults, and have duly come into the trade with express consent, after having considered carefully deliberated decisions, are lying through their teeth. In any such quarter, most are minors, and have been sold either by deception or by force.
Prostitution has also never emancipated women from impoverishment. No traumatised prostituted women ever earned millions from sex rackets; it’s the brothel owners who do. Every day, young women fall prey to the incessant terror of traffickers and pimps. Even those who seek to opt out are never allowed to quit.
Few women desire a life of ignominy. Men force them into the trade. Being forced into something is miles away from choosing it. Until recently, patriarchy forced women to burn on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands as sati.
Even if we accept the argument that prostituted women want prostitution to be legalised, should civil society really let that to happen? If someone willingly wants to sell himself to slavery, should we simply sit and watch? If slavery has been abolished throughout the world, why does prostitution, the modern day slavery continue to flourish? Women do not perpetuate prostitution; evil, corrupt and powerful men do.
Buying of bodies must be banned. If there’s no one to buy a body, the ‘body shop’ will go out of business. The first step is to recognise prostitution as sexual slavery, as abuse, and infliction of bodily and mental harm and torture.
In India, men are almost never named and shamed in sex scandals. The woman is almost always harassed in public. A democracy ensures equality of rights and recognises men and women as equal citizens. Any democracy that covers up human rights violations by spouting excuses is not a civil society. Where it does, there’s a different name for it. It’s called patriarchy. And that is the true nature of a savage state.