Saturday, January 9, 2010

Scattered Truths

by sunny kulathakal

“Oh World, shed tears for the prostitutes who die due to venereal ailments in the stinking drainages of the society after dispensing pleasure to man. Prostitutes are angels, they are sages, and they are goddesses, shed tears for them” this plea is from the pen of M Mukundan. Those who have directly heard and read prostitutes’ “confessional secrets” which have the “dampness and taste of tears” would never hesitate to shed tears for them. Whether just tears are enough for those thousands of young women who are destined to spend their days and nights within the confines of iron cages like that of birds with only stories that have the sour taste of tears tell the outside world is yet another issue.

Many of those hapless women who had had to lead an immoral life after being cheated by bogus romance might deserve respectful sympathy. What they could tell are not just the heart rending stories of a sinful life and the pathetic condition of the dirty drains on which they had been drifting. Also they need not consider the offensive things they had committed in their cursed life are all wrong. To them the border line between right and wrong will be very thin.

We have already seen that many of them had to succumb to prostitution due to broken human relationships, molested womanhood, life of starvation and poverty, the shock and insecurity following the death of those who were the pillars and shade of the family, the inevitable destiny to follow their hereditary profession of selling their body along with a host of compelling social and economic circumstances.

It is high time to raise voice against the social system which revels in putting such fallen women behind bars for life, making them showpieces and draining out their blood to the last drop. While those who mate with the prostitutes walk in the society with their heads held aloft, the nightingales who dispense pleasure to them are portrayed as despised and sinners.

Brothels are virtually dungeons. There is no one to hear the agonized writhing and sobs of the self crucifying souls emanating from there. The brimming grief of the prostitutes always merges with the melancholy hovering over their very surroundings. The distress of the souls which could aspire for freedom will be writ large on their faces.

We also are human beings

The voice of prostitutes emanated from Maharashtra and Paris in 1975 which was celebrated as the “International year of the women” caught the attention of the world.

“Give us and our children the respect and love on par with the rest of the human beings” this was the voice of the Devadasis of Maharashtra. The highlights in the Charter of demands submitted by the committee of prostitutes working in Paris were their demand to ensure full freedom and citizenship to them. “Let us be allowed to live in dignity by freeing us from the troubles of the police and other authorities” they pleaded in a single voice. They demanded old age pension and social security on part with the rest of the French women. The charter also demanded that prostitution be recognized as an industry which helps a section of the society to fulfill its sexual needs.

The authorities taking necessary measures to ensure the health and welfare of the society which creates the community of prostitutes are not giving due consideration to the issues of the prostitutes. There are even complaints that a conspiracy is on to deprive them of their status in the society. The strangest thing is that those who frequent the prostitutes are also among those who clamour for casting them out of the society and pelting stones by labeling them as vendors of venereal diseases.

Law as a weapon

Thinking that prostitution can be done away using law as a weapon is nothing but absurd. The fact is that it cannot do much in eliminating prostitution nor in weakening it. History has proved that laws and restrictions could not bridle prostitution as a profession. If the battle against prostitution turns into a war against prostitutes, it will be a total failure. The incidence of concerned authorities effectively using the arrows in the armoury of laws against prostitution effectively is also very rare. Most of the time, it will finally land on the chest of the hapless and fallen woman.

There are many discrepancies in the ongoing efforts to protect the fallen women who are ousted from the mainstream of public life. Only when they were taken up individually and their individual life and the past were examined, then only one could understand in what all realms their emotions are traversing and know how to handle them.

Zheney’s experience

Zheney who was a wonderful phenomenon of the 20th century literature took to stealing due to starvation. Retorting against the society which branded him as thief and deserted him, he wrote like this “when I was cast out of the society, I pampered the reality of being deserted through lusting male prostitutes, craving for theft, and participating in crime. Thus I denied the society which denied me”. The same is what happens in the case of the prostitutes who are cast out by the society.

Society needs them

St Augustine who said with foresightedness 1700 years ago that prostitutes were an essential component to the society had contended that sinning with a prostitute was better than raping a modest woman. Athanesious has recorded that slave women were bought s as to avoid molestation of modest woman. An 18th century philosopher has pointed out that society was bound to be indebted to the services rendered by the prostitutes to ensure the modesty of the general womenfolk. Scofanhore (19th century) has said that prostitutes are the human scapegoats sacrificed in the altar of monogamy. Many scholars also have acknowledged the existence of prostitutes as strong sentinels for protecting the chastity of other woman. Balsaat in his book on marriage has written like this: “They (prostitutes) are dedicating themselves to the country. In safeguarding the nobility of families they submit their body as a protective wall”. The English philosopher (1725) has noted “the harmful aspects of prostitution can be avoided to a large extend if it can be considered as a profession running on strict rules and conditions”.

Listen to the opinion of Saunders Welch who was magistrate in Westminster in 1758: “any person should be given the power to hand over to the law enforcement authority women who were seen enticing men for prostitution in public roads and streets. The concerned persons in charge should be given the powers to decide the punishment for women who are thus jailed on studying their state of mind after admitting them in a special hospital”.

In this context it is of relevance to recall the agitations staged in Europe in the 17th century. In Germany brothels were attacked and drove out prostitutes out of the town. In France the pimps were hanged. Prostitutes were subjected to lashes. Heads were tonsured. They were exiled for an indefinite period. But none of these helped to solve the problem. Prostitution only flourished in those areas.

How a country where prostitution is neither illegal nor a crime could handle the issues arising out of it? Illicit and public enticement, sexual relationship with pre mature women, rape, and incest, protection to brothel and income from the same are the main offences in India. Existing laws are giving silent permission to cut at the very roots of prostitution. Moreover, only the women who are subjected to prostitution caused by the men’s lust are being punished and assigned to rescue homes. Under the existing system men who exploit women in the darkness not considered guilty in the eyes of the law.

The contentions of those who suggest for nationalizing the profession of prostitution and favour its continuance are also worth noting in the current context. Much more serious are the things happening in broad daylight than the prostitution that is taking place under the guise of darkness. Moreover it is dangerous trying to bridle the sexual activity which is one of the prime biological needs of humans. Since sexual feeling is a state of mind and a physical inevitability, man is bound to do anything to satisfy that desire. Just like not minding to eat or drink anything at anywhere once you are thirsty and hungry, many things may be indulged into without minding the consequences to quench the sexual appetite.

The necessary evil

In short, prostitution is an essential evil that helps to siphon out the dangerous passions of the society. It is the prostitutes who act as the safety valves of social life who protects the modesty of our mothers and sisters. Moreover prostitution is the bread and butter of many women and those who are dependant on them. See the other side of it too.

The basic objections to prostitution as a profession are the following: It will increase sexual crimes, it will spread venereal diseases, it will make spoil the youth, and it will lead to moral degeneration and so on. Some of these have been questioned also. For example listen to the argument that it will spoil the youth. It is argued that moral strength has not been seriously affected in countries where prostitutes are available in plenty! In the US where prostitution is illegal, a major chunk of the youth is addicted to drugs. The argument is that problems could be solved if prostitutes are approached instead of drugs. But what could happen be other way. The youth will prefer to live with drugs on one hand prostitute on the other hand rather than making a choice. Those who favor prostitution is of the view that cuddling a prostitute after forsaking drugs will help one to live without inviting any harm to the brain. Whatever it is one thing is certain: Prostitutes cannot become a substitute for drugs.

If the problem of starvation and unemployment are solved prostitution could be reined to an extent. However, high level prostitution could not be eliminated.

Training at home

If the friction in marital life and disruptions in family life are rectified, prostitution can be controlled to a certain extend. If sufficient training to become a matured personality and control passions sensibly are gained at home, many of the problems could be solved.

If sufficient housing facilities are provided in cities and towns, the craze to depend on brothels for satisfying a biological need may come down. The mental stress of persons who leave wives at native place because of the non availability of family accommodation in cities they work is likely to come down if such facilities are made available.

Reduce demand

Prostitution is not a problem which could be solved just by providing the necessary sex education, livelihood and punishing the exploiters. The demand for prostitutes will come down when the number of men uncontrollably inclined to approach other women for new experiences and situations wherein sexual needs could be satisfied in the normal manner arise. As long as demand does not come down, prostitution will continue in the society as a head ache.

Prostitution will come under control only when the system of treating women as salable commodity is scrapped. There also should be change in the outlook that woman is an instrument for sexual pleasure and are shadows programmed to move according to commands pre-set.

Strict control

Though it would be impossible to totally ban prostitution efforts are on to put strict control over it. It is said that it is due to the existence of prostitutes that there are now over 20 crore persons affected by venereal diseases. Braving the medical science this disease has already become a nightmare for the world population. In fact it seems that the venereal disease which can be contacted by anybody through sexual relationship is a weapon with which the nature is compelling the mankind to bridle prostitution.

Public cooperation is essential to fight prostitution and venereal diseases. Prostitutes will have a dignified life only when the society accepts and recognizes them. The tendency to brand them as sex vendors and keeping them away needs to be stopped. It is difficult for many to admit that prostitution is a reality of life and it is neither wrong nor right in itself.

Let those who have not sinned pelt stones

The crowd which brought a prostitute for stoning to death as per the Jewish law was told by Jesus “Let those who have not sinned among you pelt the first stone”. According to Bible they all departed one by one without even have the guts to bend themselves to pick up a stone. Jesus who pardoned her sins gave her an opportunity and encouragement to follow the right track in the future.

In the present circumstances what usually happens is that a woman who falls into the pit once ends her life in the same pit. This is an extremely pathetic situation. It will be virtually impossible to even those who wish to get out of that deep pit. The efforts being made by voluntary organizations and the government through rescue shelters for such women are hardly sufficient when compared to the gravity of the issue.

It was a woman named Josephine Butler who spearheaded the agitations at the international level against prostitution. She had not only set up an organisation called Boleshenist Federation, but also could draw the attention of those who have social awareness to from across the globe to this issue. The steps taken by the League of Nations to control prostitution was based on the philosophy of Josephine.

The Indian penal code and Suppresssion of Immoral traffic in Women and Girls Act 104 of 1956 also to an extend help in controlling prostitution.

Apart from what is being done now to throw light into the social anarchy being created by prostitution several other things also need to be done. Before prescribing guidelines after analyzing the right and wrong of prostitution, solutions have to be found out for the basic reasons for prostitution. There is a need to make the ordinary public aware about the world of prostitutes. And this is not for making the public to ritualistically shed tears for the prostitutes. Instead it should be meant to infuse the feeling that they are also human beings. This may lead to not creating the conditions conducive for prostitution in society. The dangers of prostitution could be possibly avoided if a conscious and wholesome effort is made towards the total progress and prosperity of mankind. Let me repeat the lines of Vayalar once again: “May be wrong, but wrongs took birth after the ages and they are winning”. (From the book titled “the world of prostitutes”)


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