History[ edit ] In ancient India, there was a practice of the rich asking Nagarvadhu to sing and dance, noted in history as "brides of the town". Women competed to win the title of a Nagarvadhu, and it was not considered a taboo  The most beautiful woman was chosen as the Nagarvadhu.
A Nagarvadhu was respected like a queen or Goddess, but she was a courtesan or prostitute ; people could watch her dance and sing. Regarding the Devadasi concept, some scholars are of the opinion that the custom of dedicating girls to temples probably became quite common in the 6th century CE, as most of the Puranas containing reference to it were written during this period.
By the end of the 10th century, the total number of devadasis in many temples was in direct proportion to the wealth and prestige of the temple. They occupied a rank next only to priests and their number often reached high proportions. For example, there were devadasis attached to the temples at Tanjore and Travancore. Local kings often invited temple dancers to dance in their courts, the occurrence of which created a new category of dancers, rajadasis , and modified the technique and themes of the recitals.
A devadasi had to satisfy her own soul while she danced unwatched and offered herself to the god, but the rajadasi's dance was meant to be an entertainment. The popularity of devadasis seems to have reached its pinnacle around 10th and 11th century CE. The rise and fall in the status of devadasis can be seen to be running parallel to the rise and fall of Hindu temples. The destruction of temples beginning of the second millennium CE by Muslim invaders from the northwestern borders of the country and spread through the whole of the country.
Thereafter the status of the temples fell very quickly in North India and slowly in South India. As the temples became poorer and lost their patron kings, and in some cases were destroyed, the devadasis were forced into a life of poverty, misery, and, in many cases, prostitution. The tawaifs excelled in and contributed to music, dance mujra , theatre, and the Urdu literary tradition,  and were considered an authority on etiquette.
Tawaifs were largely a North Indian institution central to Mughal court culture from the 16th century onwards  and became even more prominent with the weakening of Mughal rule in the midth century. Goa was a colony in Portuguese India set up in the early 16th century, and this Portuguese stronghold contained a community of Portuguese slaves. During the late 16th and 17th centuries the Portuguese trade in Japanese slaves resulted in traders from the Portuguese Empire and their captive lascar crew members from South Asia bringing Japanese slaves to Goa.
These were usually young Japanese women and girls brought or captured from Japan as sexual slaves. Women and girls were recruited from poor rural Indian families and paid directly by the military. The red-light districts of cities such as Mumbai developed at this time.
British Raj enacted Cantonment Act of to regulate Prostitution in colonial India as a matter of accepting a necessary evil. They were licensed by military officials and were allowed to consort with soldiers only. The epics give us a colourful description of her intimate connection with royal splendour. 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, devdasi , nartika [ordinary dancer], kanchani, tawaif and the nautch girl. Brothels are illegal de jure but in practice are restricted to certain areas of any given town. Though the profession does not have official sanction, little effort is made to eradicate or impede it.
Underage prostitution[ edit ] Surveys show there are an estimated 1. Recently some child saving operations were canceled, as the higher police officials of Mumbai were very displeased with the presence of a foreign journalist. Legal status[ edit ] The law is vague on prostitution itself. According to this law, prostitutes can practise their trade privately but cannot legally solicit customers in public. Organised prostitution brothels , prostitution rings, pimping, etc. As long as it is done individually and voluntarily, a woman male prostitution is not recognised in any law in India but even consensual anal intercourse is illegal under section of the Indian Penal Code can use her body in exchange for material benefit.
In particular, the law forbids a sex worker to carry on her profession within yards of a public place. Unlike as is the case with other professions, sex workers are not protected under normal labour laws , but they possess the right to rescue and rehabilitation if they desire and possess all the rights of other citizens. In practice SITA is not commonly used.
The Indian Penal Code IPC which predates the SITA is often used to charge sex workers with vague crimes such as " public indecency " or being a "public nuisance" without explicitly defining what these consist of. Attempts to amend this to criminalise clients  have been opposed by the Health Ministry,  and has encountered considerable opposition. The laws were intended as a means of limiting and eventually abolishing prostitution in India by gradually criminalising various aspects of sex work.
The main points of the PITA are as follows: A prostitute who seduces or solicits shall be prosecuted. Similarly, call girls can not publish phone numbers to the public. Imprisonment of up to 3 months with fine, point 7 Clients: A client is guilty of consorting with prostitutes and can be charged if he engages in sex acts with a sex worker within yards of a public place or "notified area".
Imprisonment of up to 3 months, point 7 The client may also be punished if the sex worker is below 18 years of age. From 7 to 10 years of imprisonment, whether with a child or a minor, point 7 Pimps and babus: Babus or pimps or live-in lovers who live off a prostitute's earnings are guilty of a crime.
Any adult male living with a prostitute is assumed to be guilty unless he can prove otherwise. Imprisonment of up to 2 years with fine, point 4 Brothel: Landlords and brothel -keepers can be prosecuted, maintaining a brothel is illegal. From 1 to 3 years imprisonment with fine for first offence, point 3 Detaining someone at a brothel for the purpose of sexual exploitation can lead to prosecution.
Imprisonment of more than 7 years, point 6 Prostitution in a hotel is also a criminal offence. A person procures or attempts to procure anybody is liable to be punished. Also a person who moves a person from one place to another, human trafficking , can be prosecuted similarly. The government is legally obligated to provide rescue and rehabilitation in a "protective home" for any sex worker requesting assistance.
Point 21 Public place in context of this law includes places of public religious worship, educational institutions, hostels, hospitals etc. A "notified area" is a place which is declared to be "prostitution-free" by the state government under the PITA.
Brothel in context of this law, is a place which has two or more sex workers 2a. Prostitution itself is not an offence under this law, but soliciting, brothels, madams and pimps are illegal. However, it stalled during the legislative process, and legislation against human trafficking was subsequently effected by amendments to the Indian Penal Code. Other groups are lobbying parliament for amendments to the law. The court directed the Central Government, States and Union Territories to carry out a survey to determine the number of sex workers in the country willing to be rehabilitated.
However, in the Central Government made a plea to the Supreme Court arguing that sex workers should not be allowed to pursue their trade under the constitutional "right to live with dignity". Government counsel contended that any such endorsement by the court would be ultra vires of ITPA which totally bans prostitution.
Opposing counsel submitted that the Act only prohibited brothel activities and punitive action against pimps. The Supreme Court agreed to examine the plea. Most do not choose this profession but out of necessity, often after the breakup of a marriage or after being disowned and thrown out of their homes by their families.
The children of sex workers are much more likely to get involved in this kind of work as well. A survey completed in by the All Bengal Women's Union interviewed a random sample of sex workers in Calcutta: Of those, 23 claimed that they had come of their own accord, whereas the remaining women claimed to have been introduced into the sex trade by agents. The breakdown was as follows: Neighbour in connivance with parents: Also prevalent in parts of Bengal is the Chukri System , whereby a female is coerced into prostitution to pay off debts, as a form of bonded labour.
In this system, the prostitute generally works without pay for one year or longer to repay a supposed debt to the brothel owner for food, clothes, make-up and living expenses. In India, the Government's "central sponsored scheme" provides financial or in-kind grants to released bonded labourers and their family members, the report noted, adding over 2,, people have benefited to date. Almost 5, prosecutions have been recorded so far under the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of Some women and girls are by tradition born into prostitution to support the family.
The Bachara Tribe  , for example, follow this tradition with eldest daughters often expected to be prostitutes. HIV in India Mumbai and Kolkata Calcutta have the country's largest brothel based sex industry, with over , sex workers in Mumbai.
The education programme targeted about 5, female prostitutes. A team of two peer workers carried out outreach activities including education, condom promotion and follow-up of STI cases. Reaching women who are working in brothels has proven to be quite difficult due to the sheltered and secluded nature of the work, where pimps, Mashis, and brothel-keepers often control access to the women and prevent their access to education, resulting in a low to modest literacy rate for many sex workers.
Not only HIV, but other infection diseases have been decreased, examined data from prevention projects — serving about , female sex workers — implemented between and Research found that reaching sex workers through prevention programs decreased HIV and syphilis infection rates among young pregnant women tested routinely at government' prenatal health clinics.
In ten Thai women were arrested in India on prostitution charges for allegedly running two brothels masquerading as massage parlours. It entails the story of a courtesan Vasantsena. It was made into Utsav , a Hindi film. Amrapali Ambapali the nagarvadhu of the Kingdom of Vaishali famously became a Buddhist monk later in the life, a story retold in a Hindi film, Amprapali Pass , Thira and Begum Jaan Manoranjan was perhaps the first Bollywood film where prostitution was presented as a "fun" activity without moralising and in which the lead character chooses prostitution on her own free will.
Born into Brothels , a American documentary film about the children of prostitutes in Sonagachi , Kolkata , won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in Chaarfutiya Chhokare , a Hindi film directed by Manish Harishankar has also dealt with the problem of child prostitution in India very strongly.
Lakshmi is a Hindi social problem film, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. The film deals with the harsh realities of human trafficking and child prostitution , which continue behind closed curtains in rural areas of India.