Prostitution is the practice of engaging into flesh trade. It is a form of practice which involves payment in favour of sexual activity. It has often due to its money making aspect being described as commercial sex. Prostitution is not a new form of trade that is being seen in the society. It is one of the oldest professions, being even in the Biblical times. Prostitution is not limited to any age or gender, men, women and often children engage in this profession. However, the majority of them are unwilling and are forced into the fresh trade. It is a billion dollar business which rakes up to 100 billion each year. The law regarding prostitution is varies from country to country, region to region, however, in the world today many favour that prostitution such be legalised as it is an expression of women choice, gender equality and social mores. However, many critics have claimed that it is the foremost form of violence against women and children.
According to a study conducted by the United Nations, there are approximately, 42 million prostitutes in world today. The United Nations though it’s various agendas, committees and declarations have made their stance on prostitution quite clear. They are of the opinion that it is a violation of basic human rights and dignity. Prostitution has often been termed as incompatible with the basic principles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which guarantees to everyone the right to life, liberty and security. It is often viewed as being contrary to the fundamental idea of right to live with dignity as prostitution involves a life of torture, cruelty and degrading treatment. The concept of prostitution has been described as accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person in the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949). The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also mentions that states should take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress exploitation of prostitution of women. Thus, the United Nations is in favour of eradicating this from the very roots. However, this isn’t that easy. Thus various countries have adopted different kinds of laws to deal with this.
There have been various models of prostitution law developed over the years based upon the country’s legal and social system. There is a Nordic model which has been adopted by Iceland, Ireland and Canada, which decriminalises selling of sexual favours but criminalises the act of purchasing this. There are also legitimate models, which view prostitution as a profession and a job and should be regulated and legalised without any check such as Germany and Netherlands. Some on the other hand view this as a crime and provider and user both will have severe penalties such as Saudi Arabia etc. International Organisations such as Amnesty International favour legalisation of prostitution. Thus the model of prostitution law is not uniform and can’t be placed in a straightjacket formula. It varies according to the country. Some consider it legal, some consider it merely as a profession and some an offence.
Models Adopted by Countries across the Globe to Deal with the Crisis:
Prostitution laws can be categorised into five different models depending upon how this act it committed. The term prostitution doesn’t merely mean buying and selling of sex, but it also encompasses within its ambit, concepts such as pimping, organising brothels etc. There are primarily four components in prostitution namely; selling sex, buying sex, organising sex and buying solicitation. The models that have been adopted by countries across the globe are total prohibition, abolitionism, neo-abolitionism, legalisation and decriminalisation.
- Total Prohibition :
All forms of prostitution, i.e. selling sex, buying sex, organising sex and buying solicitation is totally prohibited. It is viewed by the legal scholars as this is a violation of the human rights. The people who engage in this act are forced and are usually trafficked victims who have no other means to escape. It is also known as criminalisation. This system has been incorporated in Russia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Haiti, Jordon etc.
The concept of prostitution is legal in the system, however the involvement of third party is strictly prohibited. Thus, selling sex and buying sex is legal however, the act of organising sex and buyer solicitation is illegal. The act of solicitation, i.e. inducing someone to commit or engage in a crime is illegal. This means that solicitation of prostitution, i.e. when the prostitute advertises themselves of their availability to engage in services for money, is prohibited. Thus, though the individual can choose to work in this profession, it is morally incorrect. These societies have made such a law to ensure that there is gradual end of prostitution and it doesn’t have an impact on the society at large. One such example is United Kingdom, India, Botswana, Israel, Macau, Malaysia etc.
Also known as the Nordic model, this model decriminalises selling of sexual favours but criminalises the act of purchasing this. This has been adopted by Iceland, Ireland and Canada etc. The neo-abolitionists are also of the opinion that people who enter into the fresh trade are the victims of crimes such as human trafficking, forced labour and have no say in their fate. They do not willingly enter into this business and this thus is violative of the very basic principles of human rights. They are strongly of the opinion that it is sale of human bodies and since people who enter in to this trade are forced, they should not be punished. Thus, the consumers are severely punished. The prostitutes themselves, are scot free, the customers and clienteles are committing a crime. Further, the organising and soliciting of sex is viewed as a crime. This model has been adopted in Sweden.
Legalisation is also known as regulationist approach. The legalisation of prostitution implies that all the various components of prostitution is regulated and can be lawfully carried out. Thus, selling sex, buying sex, organising sex and buying solicitation is legal. To regulate this, there are legislations in place to control it. This is usually in highly developed countries, e.g. Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Senegal, Bolivia etc. In Amsterdam, there is an entire area in which prostitution is carried on and there are regulations in place for the same. The type of regulation, the scope and its ambit depends from region to region, country to country depending upon how far society has progressed. Ex in Japan, in the Yoshiwara district of Edo, there have been zone restricted legalization for ‘red-light’ districts
Decriminalisation implies there is no penal provision in the statutes for the noncompliance of the act. In many countries, the act of prostitution has been decriminalised and there are no punishments for engaging in them, either as consumer or seller and even solicitation is legal. This approach views prostitution as a consensual sexual service being provided for monetary compensation. These countries have adopted the Amnesty International doctrine that removing prostitution creates a safe and secure environment to conduct business and helps in normalising the entire taboo and stigma around sex in general. Such a model has been adopted in New Zealand, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya etc.
The notion of slavery is not new. It has been in the society for centuries and some scholars have claimed it is a practice as old as the human civilisation. It is an institutionalised framework which allows people to be treated as property of others. It is a mechanism which allows the human ownership, selling and buying just like any commodity in the market. It is usually carried on through a unilateral arrangement between the slave and the master whereby he is treated as chattel of the owner not being able to withdraw himself from the agreement. It is thus, generally, a form of bonded labour, whereby he is forced to work against his own will and volition. Apart from the bonded and forced labour, there are other types of slavery that exist such as domestic servants kept in detention, debt bondage, child soldiers, forced marriages etc.
Types of Slavery
- Bonded Labour
Bonded Labour is also known as Debt bondage. It usually takes place when individuals place themselves as collateral and security for a loan. Instead of giving a valuable item, they place themselves as security for furnishing the money. This often forms a vicious cycle as the loan amount is itself often not repayable. It is designed in a manner as to never be paid and it often is passed on generation after generation. This gives rise to an entire family born to repay the debts of its predecessors. Another form of bonded labour that takes place is in the industrial sector. They are contracted to work for long hours for a payment of minimal sum of rupees. In India, this form of labour is most common in factories on the outskirts of metropolitan cities where the Dalits and Adivasi are forced into bonded labour.
- Chattel Slavery
Chattel slavery is what is understood colloquially whenever, one talks about slavery. Just like any commodity in the market, it is a mechanism which allows ownership, selling and buying of human beings. The individual bought is a personal slave and has no means of escaping his situation. He is forced to be a servant throughout his life time and often this burden is shifted on the next generation. Thus, any children born of the slave would also be a personal slave. This being an utmost disgrace to human dignity is condemned by the entire world and no society has deemed it as legal.
- Forced Labour
Forced Labour is the most common method by which slavery persists in the 21st Century. It is form of labour whereby the individual is forced to work for his employee primarily under the duress, threat, violence or any other kind of punishment. It is the situation whereby the individual is forced to work for someone against his will and the output of the work is completely under the control of a third party. Forced labour also includes within its gamut child labour. Child labour is very common in India, whereby children are forced to participate in industries which are ordinarily dangerous for them. The victims of forced labour have no way out as they are struck in their situation primarily due to their economic conditions.
- Forced Marriages and Sex Slavery
Forced marriages and slavery for sexual purposes are very common in some regions of the world. Women and often teenage girls are forced to marry older men who have an affluent status in society to have a so called guarantee of life. They are forced to live as wives and main job of them is to fulfil each and every whim and fancy of their husbands. Primarily, they are used as sex slaves whereby there are abused and tortured, physically and sexually. The most common occurrences are in Middle East countries, China, North Korea and war torn areas such as Syria.
Steps Taken by Various Governments to Deal with the Crisis:
Slavery was prevalent in all societies across the globe. The abolition of the same took at different time in different countries. Today in 2020, slavery has been abolished de jure in all countries, however some countries still allow certain practices which are akin to slavery and thus it exists in that form in many countries in the world.
Slavery has been abolished in International Law. There have many treaties, conventions and declarations which deal slavery. In Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948), it guarantees that no individual should be held in slavery or servitude. Further slavery in all of its forms should be eliminated. There have many protocols such as Protocol to the Abolition of Slavery been implemented in International Law. Further, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), guarantees that no individual should face slavery. The Human Rights Committee, under the United Nations further oversees and monitoring slavery and collects data to make new laws.
To abolish slavery, abolitionist movement has taken place throughout the world.
The laws in United Kingdom and United States have been quite similar in dealing with slavery.
In America and Western Europe, it was a landmark movement to set free the Atlantic slave trade. Slave trade act has been implemented in United Kingdom and United States to deal with slavery. In United Kingdom, the Slave Trade Act of 1788 was implemented which abolished slavery. Thereafter, Acts of 1811, 1824, and 1843 were enacted. Apart from them, Amelioration Act 1798, Slavery Abolition Act 1833 were also implemented by UK. United Kingdom is also a member of European Convention on Human Rights and under the same, Article 4 prohibits of all forms of slavery. The Human Rights Act of 1998 also abolishes slavery as it violates the basic principles of human rights. In United States, The Slave Trade Act of 1794 was implemented which abolished slave trade. This was strengthened by The Slave Trade Act of 1800. Further Act of 1807 to Prohibit Importation of Slaves was implemented.
In India, Slavery was abolished by the Indian Slavery Act, 1843 whereby the slaves in custody of East India Company were freed. In 1860, the Indian Penal Code came into being and it effectively brought slavery to an end as it made a provision declaring that an enslavement of human beings a criminal offense. Further, in the constitution, Article 23 in The Constitution of India, 1949 deals with prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour. Additionally, India has also implemented the Bonded Labour (Prohibition) Act 1976 with prohibits bonded and forced labour.
Human trafficking is the combined trade of forced labour, slavery and commercial exploitation of humans by the traffickers. Human trafficking is the most serious violation of the human right as it takes away the basic right of an individual to live a free and dignified life on his own terms. Human trafficking is done for exploitation of humans in areas of labour, slavery and forced marriages and primarily involves women and children. Human trafficking is a well organised crime in which people are held against their captive and forced to engage in all or any of the above listed practices. According to an official study conducted by International Labour Organisation, it is billion dollar industry which is spread throughout the world. It is often viewed as one the fastest growing trans-national crimes in the world as trafficking is not isolated in any one particular region. The most common victims of this menace are, women, children, marginalised groups, migrants, war victims etc. This is tran-national crime and thus, different countries have adopted different mechanisms to deal with human trafficking.
There have been many international treaties and conventions which have deal with human trafficking. In 1957, Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, came into force. There have been many protocols such as protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography etc. Apart from these, the ILO has also through various conventions enunciated on the concept of human trafficking. Some of the convention are forced labour convention, 1930, abolition of forced labour convention, 1957, minimum age convention, 1973, worst forms of child labour convention, 1999 etc.
Most of the countries have tried to adopt laws, rules and regulations to deal with the causes of human trafficking. They attempt to eliminate the causes of human trafficking such as prostitution, bonded labour in an effort to eliminate human trafficking.
In United States, various NGOs, have been established to deal with the problem of child trafficking. In 2007, National Slavery and National Human Rights have been widely debated and contested in the Senate and as memorabilia, January was declared as Human Trafficking month. In the constitution, the 13th amendment has made slavery and human trafficking illegal. Further, the US Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, 1994 which prohibits any US citizen to engage in sex tourism in any foreign country. If any person does the same, he can be sentenced ten years in imprisonment and includes a hefty fine. For the protection of victim, the US Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. Additionally under US law, if any individual is travelling abroad for promotion or engaging in prostitution, it can be a ground for putting him on the no fly list.
In European countries, such as France, it has prohibited sexual exploitation and human trafficking in its constitution itself under Article 225. France has also established various policies such as Respect for Human Rights Policies. Under this, it mentions workers’ rights, trafficking and pimps are punished for prostitution. Even if a person’s aids in it, it would violate the law and he can be punished. In United Kingdom, the parliament has passed the Sex Offenders Act, 1997. It prohibits the citizens of United Kingdom to engage in sex tourism and even the intention to partake in it could entail in an offence. In India, Human Trafficking Act has been passed to keep a check on the crime. Further under Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, it forbids kidnapping and selling of minors into prostitution and take measures to arrest traffickers. In Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2001 has tried to make a plan of action against trafficking. It included various compensation schemes involving victims of trafficking
Prostitution, slavery and human rights trafficking are few of the most common form of gross human rights violations that are taking place in the world at large. They are seeds to the world’s most menacing problems which are so deep that despite global organisations they is still quite rampant. These types of crimes are not limited to one religion, ethnicity, community, country rather it is going on throughout the globe and most of the times, they run like well organised enterprises having connections in multiple countries. Thus, the world must come together and set aside its differences to ensure that these practices are nipped at the bud.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is meant by Prostitution?
Prostitution is the practice of engaging into flesh trade. It is a form of practice which involves payment in favour of sexual activity. It has often due to its money making aspect being described as commercial sex. Prostitution has often been termed as incompatible with the basic principles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which guarantees to everyone the right to life, liberty and security. The concept of prostitution has been described as accompanying evil of the traffic in persons
What is meant by slavery?
It is an institutionalised framework which allows people to be treated as property of others. It is a mechanism which allows the human ownership, selling and buying just like any commodity in the market. It is usually carried on through a unilateral arrangement between the slave and the master whereby he is treated as chattel of the owner not being able to withdraw himself from the agreement.
What is meant by human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the combined trade of forced labour, slavery and commercial exploitation of humans by the traffickers. Human trafficking is the most serious violation of the human right as it takes away the basic right of an individual to live a free and dignified life on his own terms. Human trafficking is done for exploitation of humans in areas of labour, slavery and forced marriages and primarily involves women and children. Human trafficking is a well organised crime in which people are held against their captive and forced to engage in all or any of the above listed practices.
Why is human trafficking a billion dollar industry?
According to an official study conducted by International Labour Organisation, it is billion dollar industry which is spread throughout the world. It is often viewed as one the fastest growing trans-national crimes in the world. It is growing into a billion dollar industry as there are no uniform regulations to control it. Some countries have very lenient regulations where as some countries have very stringent controls. Further most trafficking occurs through smuggling routes which largely remain unchecked.
Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje