Painful Spirits of The Empowered City

women_11.jpgCome Women’s Day, and the city becomes witness to the actions of a few aware people who volley their views on how, at last, has women-empowerment arrived. A long lost Government also comes in action to encash every opportunity of wooing its voters and, thus, many schemes see the light of the day. Fairness creams to washing powders; no brand leaves the opportunity for exposure to their target group in the name of the day. Thus, all become successful in making women realize that, yes, they are special. But as the day ends all charm gets lost. For those privileged ones, even if the charm was there for a day. However, some never got to taste the respect they command for being the benefactor of life, and such underprivileged are not insignificant in number.

And they are the female prostitutes. Women struggling harder than a starlet would do this to get a position in Bollywood. However, here they struggle for no stardom, for them food twice a day is eternity.

There are more then two million female prostitutes in the country of which a good number serves the sexual needs of Delhi men. They come from all over the country and are mostly forced into the flesh trade, earnings of which, they have to share with the pimps and police. Out of hunger and compulsion to feed their families back home, they subject themselves and their bodies to tortures of all kinds. They may try and compel their clients to wear condoms lest they get AIDS infected, but they can’t do anything with the police who arrests them for no reason. You see them being bashed by police in full public view, often at railway stations and busy streets, but you can’t do anything. Those meant to protect them arrest them without warrants and coerce them to have sex without condoms. Though for the prostitutes doing their ‘work’ without condoms, is nothing out of the ordinary, as mostly customers refuse payments if the deal is with a condom. And they can’t even approach police to get them to their rescue. The act which police uses to fear them off actually does not apply to them at all.

ITPA i.e. Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act 1956, has provisions for awarding punishment to many aspects of prostitution but it does not have any provisions for the prostitutes per se. The Act considers prostitutes as victims and provides for their rehabilitation and protection while they are in custody. However, most of it is only on paper in the rule-books, practically this law is a lethal weapon which the system uses to torture them some more.

The law was meant to be harder for pimps who coerce them into selling their flesh but pimps are often let off as they have contacts and money. Everyone in the chain roughens prostitutes up and extracts the money. They either can’t leave the profession as possibility of rehabilitation is mostly unlikely, and pimps track them again or they can’t break free from the pimps and earn on their own. The pimps are gloves in hand with the police who will arrest them in absence of patronage by the pimp.

Even if prostitution is legalized in India, it will not bring any significant respite to them, as along with legalizing the world’s oldest profession, prostitutes should be trained to protect themselves. They should have rights to form unions and voice their concerns. All other implications of legalizing this trade, I leave for better enlightened ones to discuss. I just wanted them to wish a belated Happy Women’s Day, though they may not be happy being a women.

Monica Verma

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