What is the legal status of prostitution in Delhi?
Prostitution in Delhi, the capital city of India, exists in a grey area in terms of legality. While the act of selling sex itself is not illegal, various activities surrounding prostitution are criminalized. This includes soliciting in public places, running brothels, pimping, and human trafficking. As a result, sex workers often operate covertly and are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and violence.
What are the laws and penalties surrounding prostitution in Delhi?
India’s primary legislation related to prostitution is the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), which was enacted in 1956. The act criminalizes several activities associated with prostitution:
- Soliciting in public places: Section 8 of the ITPA prohibits sex workers from soliciting clients in public spaces, including streets, parks, and hotels. The penalty for violating this provision is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine, or both.
- Running a brothel: Section 3 of the ITPA criminalizes running a brothel, which is defined as a place where two or more sex workers are engaged in sexual activities. The punishment for operating a brothel is imprisonment for a minimum of one year and a fine, with the possibility of more severe penalties for repeat offenders.
- Pimping and living off the earnings of a sex worker: Section 4 of the ITPA outlaws procuring, inducing, or taking a person for the sake of prostitution. Additionally, Section 5 criminalizes living off the earnings of a sex worker, with penalties ranging from two to seven years in prison and a fine.
- Human trafficking: The ITPA, along with the Indian Penal Code, criminalizes human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution. Penalties for human trafficking range from three years to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime.
What are the local terms used for prostitution in Delhi?
In Delhi and across India, prostitution is often referred to using various local terms and slang. Some of these terms include:
- Dhandha: A Hindi word that translates to business or trade, often used to describe the act of selling sex.
- Tawaif: A historical term for a courtesan in India who provided entertainment and companionship, often in exchange for money or gifts.
- Rand: A derogatory term for a sex worker in Hindi.
- Red-light area: A term used to describe an area where sex workers and brothels are concentrated, such as Delhi’s infamous GB Road.
What is the history of prostitution in Delhi?
Prostitution has a long and complex history in Delhi, dating back to ancient India. In the Mughal era, courtesans known as tawaifs played an important role in the royal courts, providing entertainment and companionship to the nobility. During the British colonial period, the practice of prostitution continued, with red-light districts emerging in major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
Following India’s independence in 1947, the government sought to address the issue of prostitution by enacting the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act in 1954, which was later amended and renamed the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act in 1956. Despite these legal measures, prostitution continues to be a pervasive issue in Delhi and across India, with sex workers often facing discrimination, violence, and limited access to health services and legal protections.
For more information on prostitution in Delhi and related laws and resources, consider the following links:
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 – Full text of the Indian law that regulates prostitution-related activities.
- Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1954 – The original legislation that preceded the ITPA.
- Human Rights Watch report on child marriage and violations of girls’ rights in India – A comprehensive report that discusses the issue of child prostitution in Delhi and across India.
- Apne Aap Women Worldwide – A non-governmental organization that works to end sex trafficking and support the rights of sex workers in India.