From the Lens of Humiliating Stares and Jockstrap Jibes: The Laws Governing Prostitutes in India

By Adv. Shriya Maini.

Co-Authored by Pooja Jasani, Gujarat National Law University.

2017 saw the release of an exciting Bollywood flick based on the contentious subject of sex workers in India and their argumentative profession of prostitution. Begum Jaan revolved around a group of prostitutes struggling for survival amidst humiliating stares and jockstrap jibes. The female protagonist of the film ran the reigns of the brothel business and was essentially what one could call the Manager tawaif, kothewali or devdasi (glorious desi synonyms for a prostitute). Though I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film, what essentially provoked me was that prostitution was still viewed as an unlawful societal hazard, when all that the profession entailed was having consensual sex with another consenting adult, that too, behind a closed door. What truly struck me was when the shackled tawaif professed: “Sahab, humaare dhandhe mai aurat ko kabhi azaadi nahi milti.” (more…)