The supreme court had the occasion[1] to discuss the modules for the eradication of prostitution when a petition was filed before the court to segregate the children of prostitutes from them and to provide them better educational facility.

The Supreme Court’s advisory Committee

After hearing the arguments of both sides of counsel, the court by Order dated May 2, 1990, appointed a committee to make suggestions

  • for eradicating child prostitution and
  • to point out social aspects for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of the young victims, children and girls prostitutes from red light area and get them free from the abuses of prostitution;
  • to amend the existing law or enact a new law, if so warranted;
  • to prevent sexual exploitation of children and to take various measures for effective enforcement thereof.

Committee constituted by this Court under the chairmanship of Shri V.C. Mahajan travelled far and wide to have a look into the field of operation of the governmental agencies and has suggested nodal programme for the eradication of the twin facets of prostitution, viz.,

  • protection,
  • care and
  • rehabilitation of the fallen women and neglected juveniles.

Child Prostitution

The Committee has opined that the problem of child prostitution does not stand by itself and is a component of overall phenomenon in the country. It highly concentrates on identified red light areas as well as on areas which are not so clearly identified. Though the problem of prostitution is mainly found in large cities, but in the urban areas and some rural areas, the problem gives frequent recurrence.

Among the fallen women, the child prostitutes constitute major bulk of the component. Child prostitutes constitute 12 to 15% of prostitutes in any area.

Some Indian originated form of Prostitution

On account of the social sanctions, women are exploited by the monstrous customs of Devdasis, Jogins and Venkatans is known by other names in different parts of the country. The unfounded social and religion based sanctions are only camouflage; their real motive is to exploit the unfortunate women.

Classification of Prostitutes

  • 16% due to family tradition and
  • 9% due to illiteracy.

On Nationality basis

  • 94.6% prostitutes are Indians while
  • 2.6% are Nepalis and
  • 2.7% are Bangladeshis.

On Religion Basis

  • 84.36% are Hindus;
  • 3.5% are Christians.

On Caste Basis

In terms of caste classification,

  • Dalits and Tribes constitute 36%,
  • Other Backward Classes 24% and
  • others 40%.

On marital status basis

In terms of marital status,

  • only 10.6% of the prostitutes are married;
  • 34.4% are unmarried and
  • 54.2% are divorcee or widows.

On educational level basis

In terms of education level;

  • 70% of them are illiterates while
  • 4% only are literates.
  • Only 24% of the prostitutes are educated at primary and secondary level while 1.4% have higher qualifications.

On states basis

They are prevalent highly in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The specific areas in major cities are identified as red light areas as well as some semi-urban but rural areas. The number of red light areas having increased in recent times, brothel based prostitution is on the vane but there is an increasing trend towards decentralised mode of prostitution.

  • 86% of the fallen women hail from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi,
  • Delhi receives prostitutes from about 70 districts in the country;
  • Bombay from 40 districts;
  • Bangalore from 70 districts;
  • Calcutta from 11 districts,
  • Hyderabad from 3 districts etc.[2]

Types of Prostitution

The Committee has also identified ten types of prostitutes like

  • Street walkers,
  • religious prostitutes,
  • prostitutes in brothel,
  • singing and dancing girls,
  • bar nude,
  • massage parlour and
  • some are call girls.

Causes for Prostitution

There is growing evidence that the minimum number of prostitutes get into flesh trade either voluntarily or by organised gangster force women and girls by offering rosy future to innocent fallen women and trap them often with the connivance of the police.

The major reasons for induction of prostitution are

  • poverty and
  • unemployment or
  • lack of appropriate rehabilitation etc.

Prostitution is primarily due to ignorance illiteracy, coercive trapping or scare of social stigma. In India, they enter into the prostitution between the age of 16 to 19 years and lose market by the time they became 35 years of age. Thereafter such persons either manage brothels or develop contact with high leads.

Additional Causes of Prostitution

The Mahajan Committee report indicated that

  • certain social organisations have identified the poverty as the cause for sending the children for prostitution in expectation of regular remittance of income from prostitution by the girls who have already gone into the brothels.
  • It is also an inevitable consequence that over years the fallen women are accustomed to certain life-style and in terms of expenditure they need certain amount of money for their upkeep and maintenance.

Additional Burden of Children

When Prostitutes bear children, it becomes additional burden for them. They are led or caught in the debt traps. The managers of the brothel are generally ladies. They do not allow the girls to bear children. In case of birth against their wishes, the unfortunate is subjected to cruelty in diverse forms.

In the process of maintaining the children, again they land themselves in perpetually growing burden of debt without any scope to get out from the bondage. Thereby, this process lends perpetuality to slavery to the wile of prostitution. To support their children for education etc. 44% of them desire to leave the red light traps and 43% of them express their despondence languishing between hope and despair.

Most of those who want to leave, have given the reasons to save their children for prostitution and protection of the future their children, fear of contacting the venerial diseases, the fear of their children following the path; some of them expressed dislike the profession, social stigma and their yearning is to start new life

Why it is difficult to leave the practice of Prostitution?

Those who want to remain in prostitution have given absence of alternatives source of income, their social non-acceptability, family customs, poverty, ill-health and their despondence as the reasons and, thus, they want to continue in the prostitution as the last resort for their livelihood. They do not like to remain in red light area and the profession but lack of alternative source of livelihood is the prime cause of their continuation in the profession.

If alternatives are available and society is inclined to receive them, they will gladly shed off their past and start with a clean slate as a fresh lease of life with renewed vigorous hope and aspiration to live a normal life, with dignity of person; respect for the personality, equality of status; crave for fraternity and acceptability in the social mainstream. Therefore, it would be imperative to provide a permanent cure to the malady.

Process from the liberation from Prostitution

There would be transition from the liberation from the prostitution to start with fresh lease of life. This period should be taken care of by providing behavioural corrections by constant interaction, counselling, cajoling and coercion as the last resort for assurance of social acceptability inculcating faith in them.

An avenue to earn sufficient income for rehabilitation rekindles their resolve to start with fresh lease of life, without which their craving to shed off the past and to start with a new lease of life would remain a distant dream and a futile attempt. Therefore, the rubicon has to be bridged between the past and the hope to make them realise their desire as normal citizenry, by providing opportunity and facilities. Provision of opportunities and facilities is input of the constitutional guarantee to the disadvantaged, deprived and denied people.

The directive principles of the Constitution, in particular Articles 38, 39, and all relevant related Articles enjoin the State to provide them as impregnable in built right to life guaranteed by Article 21 and equality of opportunities with protective discrimination guaranteed in Article 14 the genus and its species, Articles 15 and 16 and the Preamble, the arch of the Constitution by legislative and administrative measures. Therefore, it is the duty of the State and all voluntary non-government organisations and public spirited persons to come in to their air to retrieve them from prostitution, rehabilitate them with a helping hand to lead a life with dignity of person, self-employment through provisions of education, financial support, developed marketing facilities as some of major avenues in this behalf. Marriage is another object to give them real status in society.

Acceptance by the family is also another important input to rekindle the faith of self-respect and self-confidence. Housing, legal aid, free counselling assistance and all other similar aids and services are meaningful measures to ensure that unfortunate fallen women do not again fall into the trap of red light area contaminated with foul atmosphere.

Law is a social engineer. The courts are part of the State steering by way of judicial review. Judicial statesmanship is required to help regaining social order and stability. Interpretation is effective armoury in its bow to steer clear the social malady, economic reorganisation as effective instruments remove disunity, and prevent frustration of the disadvantaged, deprived and denied social segments in the efficacy of law, and pragmatic direction pave way for social stability peace and order. This process sustains faith of the people in rule of law and the democracy becomes useful means to the common man to realise his meaningful right to life guaranteed by Article 21.

The court said that,

“We are of the view that the suggestions require earnest examination to give force and content to them. The rescue and rehabilitation of the child prostitutes and children should be kept under the nodal Department, namely, Department of Women and Child Development under the Ministry of Welfare and Human Resource, Government of India. It would devise suitable schemes for proper and effective implementation. The institutional care, thus, would function as an effective rehabilitation of fallen women even if they have crossed the age prescribed under the JJ Act. They should not be left to themselves, but should be rehabilitated through self-employment schemes or such measures as are indicated hereinbefore.

The juvenile homes should be used only for a short stay to relieve the child prostitutes and neglected juveniles from the trauma they would have suffered; they need to be rehabilitated in the appropriate manner. The details are required to be worked out by meaningful procedure and programmes. In the light of the directions already given by this Court from time to the Central Government, State Governments and Union Territory Administrators, adequate steps should be taken to rescue the prostitutes, child prostitutes and the neglected juveniles as indicated hereinabove ; they should take measures to provide them adequate safety, protection and rehabilitation in the juvenile homes manned by qualified trained social workers or homes run by NGOs with the aid and financial assistance given by Government of India or State Government concerned.

A nodal Committee with the public spirited NGOs, in particular women organisations/woman members should be involved in the management. Adequate encouragement may be given to them; the needed funds should be provided and timely payments disbursed so that the scheme would be implemented effectively and fruitfully.”


Gaurav Jain V. Union of India; (1997) 8 SCC 114

[1] Gaurav Jain V. Union of India; (1997) 8 SCC 114

[2] This data is according to committee’s report which was submitted in 1996