Prostitution: India and the World

A Brief History…

Prostitution has existed in all parts of the World at some point in time. Looking into its history is a mind-boggling task indeed. The earliest known account of Prostitution as a profession is found in the Sumerian records, dating back to 2400 BCE. The Ancient Near East was the home of many early civilizations. It falls in the region roughly corresponding to the modern day Middle East. While we cannot say for sure that it was here, when prostitution began, it is the earliest known record. “Sacred prostitution” was a common practice within shrines and temples dedicated to various deities. However, such practices were not just restricted to the Middle East. Similar practices were widespread throughout the regions of Greece, Rome, China and Japan much throughout history. But their end came with Emperor Constantine. He destroyed the Goddess temples and replaced their practices with Christianity. Despite Constantine’s decree, sacred prostitution prevailed and still operates within communities throughout the World, some of them are – Devadasi culture in India, Trokoshi culture in Ghana.

Modern-day Prostitution

The modern view and existence of Prostitution in the World reflect two extremes. There are places where ancient practices of temple prostitution and enslavement are still prevalent. And, there are places where sex work is like any other profession without any taboo, stigma or question of morality attached to it. India is one of the former places among many. Sexual enslavement and trafficking have prevailed here for a long time. One would even find a whole lot of difference in how prostitution is viewed in developing and developed countries. In the developing and under-developed strata, it’s a business hidden away behind closed doors in dark and dusty streets. While in developed countries, it’s on a magnificent display for all to see. There, sex workers have their rights and benefits along with the freedom to work. But here, rights and freedom of many are denied on a daily basis. There, they are workers. Here, they are slaves. Fear has no place there but ‘fun’. But Here, fear thrives. What has changed the way prostitution exists and is looked at, so drastically among parts of the world?

Prostitution in India

In India, for many people, prostitution remains a choice they never made. According to a report issued by the US Department of State, India is the source, destination and transit country for human trafficking who then get involved in forced labor and sex trafficking (source). Prostitution remains a horrific everyday reality of many including temple prostitution (devadasis), buying and selling of sex slaves and brothel keeping.

On the other side of the World

The reality is very different in other parts of the world. We live in a liberal society, much liberal than a few decades ago. Not long ago, humans have embraced individualism, rationalism and humanistic values over absolute morality. It appears that more and more countries of the world have now accepted that legalizing prostitution does more good than harm. It permits people to practice prostitution in safe environments. It may even lead to a reduction in trafficking and involvement of pimps. It may contribute to a country’s economy as sex workers will need to pay taxes. Governments can mandate regular health check-ups for people practising prostitution. It makes the whole process clean, regulated and less complicated, many would say. Well, that’s the burden the governments of the world carry. They have to deal with problems of exponential degrees and find a solution and some of them seem to have.

Why haven’t all countries legalized Prostitution yet?

If the solution to this great problem has been found, it’s worth asking why haven’t all countries legalized prostitution yet. As a matter of fact, more than half of the countries in the world have not yet legalized prostitution. Many have outlawed it. Why hasn’t this solution appealed to the majority? The reason may be, Prostitution is not ‘just a profession‘. It cannot be discussed without asking the question of morality. Many argue that it should be adopted into the society like any other profession and attaching morals to it is just religious fanaticism. If that’s so, can we let an underage girl practice prostitution? She’d be underage, nevertheless, she’s just working…right? The decisions made by countries that legalize prostitution have largely been the outcomes to solve a crisis and to promote freedom of choice, however, liberals of the world seem to have lost vision of the question of morality that has its blood ties with the Question of Prostitution. We are yet to see how India navigates its way through the opinions of the world regarding Prostitution.

Facts: Wikipedia : History of Prostitution