Why Consider The Profession of Prostitution Pejorative ?

By Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar
06 February 2020 12:23 IST

The Canacona MLA stood up in the assembly and objected to an activist advocate calling all the MLAs who support CAA “political prostitutes”. I am sure being a politician he could not have objected to the word “political”. Obviously his objection is to the word “prostitute”. We also need to examine why today’s society, which has gone to the extent of legalizing live in relationships and same sex marriages, should consider prostitute a derogatory word.

In our clinical practice of medicine, we receive many male and female patients from this profession. They are human beings like us all. They exist because society needs them. The raison d’être of any profession is its need in society. We doctors solve their problems. They are happy and go back to their commercial sex work. We go back to our commercial medical work. Would any MLA take offence if this advocate were to use the word “political doctors” instead of “political prostitutes”?

Author Pran Neville in his book “Nautch Girls of India – Dancers, Singers, Playmates” (1996) says “From time immemorial Indian poets have sung praises of the 'public woman', the professional entertainer. The epics give us a colorful description of her intimate connection with royal splendor. The Puranas highlight her auspicious presence as a symbol of good luck. Buddhist literature also testifies to the high esteem in which she was held in society. She appears through the ages in different incarnations from apsara in divine form to ganika, devdasinartika [ordinary dancer], kanchani, tawaif and the nautch girl.”

So far as the legal status of this profession is concerned, two laws were passed in 1956 – The SITA (Immoral Traffic Suppression Act) and, to comply with the UN declaration of 1950 to prevent immoral trafficking, PITA(Immoral Traffic Prevention Act). Both the laws declare the act of sex for money itself as LEGAL. However related PUBLIC activities like advertising, soliciting through pimps, madams, public brothels are illegal. It is also illegal to practice commercial sex work in educational institutions, hostels, religious places, hospitals and government notified zones etc.

This means that the profession of prostitution or commercial sex work, if carried out discretely, privately and without advertising, is perfectly legal in India.

Then why stigmatize it? Why consider the term “prostitute” any more derogatory than the term “private doctor”? Both are humane, commercial services practiced discretely and absolutely needed in society. Is the stigmatization because this profession is largely a domain of the woman and is based on the irony that in our patriarchal society it is the man who needs the woman more than vice versa?

Be that as it may, it is important that our leaders are aware of the needs of our society and address these needs through the kaleidoscope of compassion and humanism rather than through the prism of prejudice.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.

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