BREAKING SOCIAL STIGMA
By Anannya Mondal
Marx viewed prostitutes as victims of the capitalist system. In his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, he described sex work as being “only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the laborer,” and viewed the abolition of prostitution as a necessary part of ending capitalism. Women in this profession are always been exploited by capitalism.” they are sexually abused, their labour is squished by men. Even in Soviet Union, prostitution was always kept aside from any movement for a long time. Feminists like Kollontai made a demand for the abolition of prostitution.
We should talk about prostitution and about their right:
While people of contemporary India are leaving stereotypes slowly but surely, when feminism is paving its way towards equal rights for LGBTQ+ community, we have to rethink about feminism from different perspective, through the marginalized eyes, through the eyes of the sex workers, the women who still now struggling to dream of equal right.
Sexual freedom of women is a myth in this patriarchal society, a woman can be a great mother, wife, sister but sexual desire in her is unforgiveable sin. That’s why the involvement of sex worker’s right was included too lately into feminist movement. Nivedita Menon brilliantly points out the stigma in India, is not only rooming around uneducated, unsophisticated people about sex workers, instead, many feminists till now call it a ‘violation against woman’ and they claim it to be banned in order to give woman equal right.
While saying so, I’m not neglecting the sex trafficking or the fact that it’s a violence but it’s a question of choice, their willingness, whether they want to be associated with this job or not. People want a better life that’s why they struggle, for the betterment but waking up on one fine morning, if we want to change the society for the sake of equality by abolishing prostitution, rather fighting against the social flaws, misogynist ideas, economic imbalances that vigorously forces them towards this profession, will definitely bring no change. Every person who are selling their labor to gain money are violated and exploited somehow, then why only prostitution brings scar to woman’s lives? Why they can’t live a proper healthy life why we should not prevent their rights, so that their sexual exploitation somehow can be prevented.
We are living in 21st century. We have to leave the dogmas associated with women. In this patriarchal society, whatever a woman does is evil. If a woman gets promoted when she sleeps with her boss, in domestic sphere woman’s work is always being neglected while for the same work a boy receives is a round of a applause. Keeping all these things besides, we on an open forum neglecting the sexual exploitation of woman in prostitution. It’s high time to talk about their rights and their exploitation specially India where lower caste woman are being exploited in the hand of upper caste men.
Prostitution is like any other profession. Period.
Sex work is always associated with less dignity and more over the term in Mumbai, they have specific name for the woman associated with the prostitution profession as ‘Dhandawali’ means businesswomen. The term ‘prostitution’ explicitly means the commodification of woman body so basically if we think a little bit deeper, the term implies that women as they are in this profession are commodifying their body parts to the male clients who are exchanging sexual pleasure with money. So, apparently, if we think it as a profession this should not be treated as a shameful profession or a matter of dignity anymore. While the so called sophisticated intellectual people often raise question about this profession as a matter a losing dignity but through a capitalist viewpoint, every labour is being exchanged with money in the hand of capitalism, so why is it different than any other profession? because the society has created such stereotypes associated with woman specially those who belong from lower caste.
The association of caste with prostitution:
When we are discussing caste oppression broadly, this prostitution as a caste oppressor needs to be discussed. If we see, the woman who are engaged with prostitution, are from lower caste and it is really important to highlight the caste involvement with prostitution. Their social, economic background force them with the engagement of the prostitution. A research shows that woman who left the profession can never lead a normal life, they prefer to be in this profession with their own will because of the cruelty of the society, the social dogmas related with the term sex worker make their life living inferno.
During the colonial era, the Britishers, in the beginning of 1850s, ‘saw prostitution as an evil necessary to satiate the “natural sexual- desire” of their troops and sought to control the practice by ordering that Indian women be available in the cantonments for soldiers, thus giving birth to Brothel-system and Red-Light Area districts in urban Indian society’. After partition, the nationalists hugely opposed prostitution as a profession and called it anti- cultural. Human Rights Watch have also acknowledged prostitution as a form of oppressive caste-based labor, along with scavenging and bondage.1
About 5,000 to 10,000 girls enter this life of sexual subjugation and subsequently prostitution every year. Most girls and women in India’s urban brothels come from Dalit, lower caste, tribal, or minority communities, 90% of sex workers’ daughters in India follow their mothers into the same profession.
Alexandra Kollontai, a Marxist feminist said that women who came from lower socio-economic background are forced to do prostitution to feed them and their family. It’s an exploitation of labor and brings no good to a society neither in terms of progression nor in productivity. As a citizen of modern India, we can’t throw this issue away by maintaining a social distance from them, at the end of the day we have to remember that their labor is being wasted in the hand of bourgeois capitalists, we can’t make any productive progressive change in our society. According to Kollontai, ‘A man who buys the favors of a woman does not see her as a comrade or as a person with equal rights. He sees the woman as dependent upon himself and as an unequal creature of a lower order who is of less worth to the workers’ state’. We have to make a free and equal space for women linked with this profession and not make them feel ashamed after leaving this profession.
We all have to give them the dignity they deserve and let there be a space for them to choose their own profession, it’s an integral part towards a casteless society.
“Prostitution has an ancient history in India, back in the age of 300 AD, as ‘Devdasi’ who belonged to lower caste, used to dedicate their whole life as servants of god in the temples, which often made them objects of sexual pleasure to priests and pilgrims and it was an established custom during those days. This is how the superior ranked social class destructed the lives of young girls by using them as a sex tool for their own pleasure.”
Anannya is a feminist writer and holds a degree in Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication.
As an advocate of Dalit feminism, she has an interest in writing about such themes and has an interest in politics.