From poverty to erosion of values, several factors are pushing more and more women and young girls to take to prostitution all over India, says a new study.
Although it is difficult to count the total number of prostitutes, or sex workers, latest estimates show that there are some three million in the country, an overwhelming majority in the 15-35 year group.
KK Mukherjee and Sutapa Mukherjee say in the study undertaken by the Gram Niyojan Kendra, Ghaziabad, on behalf of the central government that there were several reasons why prostitution is growing.
Among these are growing migration and poverty, political instability, erosion of traditional values, desire to earn easy money, globaliasation and declining job opportunities for uneducated and unskilled youths.
Added to these are urbanisation, new attitudes to sex, apprehension among youths about their sexual performance, rise in hospitality industries, promiscuity as well as myths about sex with virgin women.
But prostitution is still largely an urban phenomenon, the Mukherjees said in their study that involved interviewing nearly 10,000 people, mostly prostitutes, spread across 31 states and union territories.
Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal together accounted for about a fourth of the total respondents.
The study said that girls and women from these two states were operating in more than 12 states and union territories.
Besides, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Bhutanese and Myanmar women also formed a small part of the prostitution market in the country.
"Consumerism combined with growth of transport facilities is contributing to the emergence of a new form of practice called 'commuting prostitute' wherein girls and women from neighbouring rural areas come to cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai for some specific hours on the pretext of working in offices/homes," says the study.
The prostitutes come mainly from vulnerable groups such as Dalits, tribes and backward castes. They also belong to all religions.
But call girls and women practising prostitution under various garbs are comparatively more from general caste groups and have had better education.
Most prostitutes, the study says, are in the age group of 15 to 35 years "because of overwhelming emphasis on physical appearance and endurance capacity to entertain multiple clients".
Referring to new clients, the study says: "Prostitutes are offering concessions to student clients." It says many young men look for sex for pleasure and fun. Group sex is also emerging as a new phenomenon.
According to the study, while income is nominal for the majority of prostitutes, ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 24,000 a month (which is shared with others), some call girls earn Rs 40,000 to Rs 800,000 a month.
But girls and women in the trade are constantly lying even to their family members about what they do for a living.
"In the process, they live in dilemma and duality. In some cases this duality goes so deep that they are not able to make the difference between make belief and real life."
The study says complete eradication of prostitution is not possible. But its prevalence can be reduced if the government and others shows the will.
The authors say: "Prostitution is an age-old social problem. Dealing with such a chronic problem is not an easy task. It will require sincere and sustained efforts of the government, voluntary organisations, people's group and all round support of the socio-religious and political leaders and opinion makers based on properly planned national line of action."