‘On Being a Prostitute’
Prostitution is the business or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute or sex worker. Prostitution is one of the branches of the sex industry. Estimates place the annual revenue generated from the global prostitution industry to be over $100 billion. Prostitution is sometimes referred to as "the world's oldest profession".
On the 15th of June, III PSEco came together as a whole and held their first Open Forum of the year. Of course, this has been a trend we have come to follow since the last two years. The Open forum was held to bring to light the otherwise little known facts of Prostitution, not only in India but also around the globe. This ‘Open Forum’ was moderated by Rony Joe. There were quite a few well-spoken Panelists who spoke on the topic. The panelists were not as much addressing the class, as they were in constant conversation. Sreya Khastgir started things off by narrating the life and times of Munni, a prostitute who dwelled in Sonakashi; said to be the largest red light area in India. Through her narration Sreya vividly exposed the realities of a Prostitute which left the vicinity astounded.
Followed by Shreya was Shruthi Mahadevan who took us to Vedic India and threw light on the history of prostitution, what followed came as a shock to everyone as no one present there could have ever thought of Prostitution having divine legitimacy, Devadasi; a woman or man said to be married to God. The Devadasi as a profession was one of importance and is said to have got Royal endowment. This changed with the Mughal Invasion of the Indian subcontinent and later with the might of the British colonization which made the Noble Devadasi nothing but a street hooker.
Narasimha Rao took a different approach to the concept of Prostitution. “Sex work as a way of life” was the core of his idea and for the first time since the forum opened, the term “Sex worker” was introduced. This drew a different picture as the “sex worker” was a part of the economic section of society and not a meagre outcast. The Sex Industry today is a Multi-Billion Dollar industry and ever growing, making it an economic asset in few countries especially in the South-East Asian countries. Women and Men across the world have developed the basic idea of a “sex worker” into an art and this trend is now being molded into the Indian scenario. Today, selling one’s body has become a choice, the question arising has the Indian Prostitute become the next “Pretty woman”.
This was followed by the Transgender. The life of a transgender is governed by the reality of either a cadger or a sex worker. Pragati Manjunath, the panelist who followed, exposed the harshness a transgender must face. There are only a very few who can stomach it. The stigma against the third sex is one which is very strongly held, yet they are held in the Noblest thoughts; A Transgender is given divine authority is some cultures, blessings by them are given a lot of sentiment as it is considered to be extremely auspicious et sic a curse by one is not taken lightly. Rights of Transgender in the Indian Sub-Continent are not given much heed because of the earlier mentioned stigma.
Glory Mathew threw light on something which had not crossed my mind in the slightest; Progeny of Prostitutes. Glory Proposed Prostitution more often than not leads to illegitimate progeny, mostly due to the malfunction of contraceptives or the use of none. The social reality of a female sex worker makes her want an offspring because she is devoid of social relationship and hence requires a concrete bond even if minimal. The Progeny although do not often get to have a normal social setting, some are scarred by the basic fact that they are illegitimate. Most don’t ever have schooling, or worse, become prostitutes themselves.
Following up on Child Prostitution, Trishala Ballal brought up the topic of Child Trafficking. According to her data, Child Trafficking is the 3rd largest profitable industry in the world, as unworldly as the sounds if one thinks about it, it could very much be so. Over half a million children under the age of 14 are trafficked in a financial year, which may seem a low count when one compares it to the world population but if a decadal count is taken that sums up to more than 5 million. Most countries don’t have a population that big.
I was asked to draw a conclusion on our discussion; in my opinion, I think it boils down to dignity of labour, where one looks at prostitutes as a labour force and does not associate derogatory connotations to the words ‘sex worker’. If we look at the sex workers of South-East Asia, for example, one can see that they have come to be accepted as dignified artists and have also become economic assets.
In respect to the discussion held, it was quite the eye-opener, leaving a few dumbstruck, and the rest astounded. It provided insight into the base realities of this profession. It helped us form a more informed perspective on this social stigma.
Yudh Vir Saund