Friday, December 01, 2006

Work is worship but...

Pix courtesy Lijo

It was Old Boys Day and I was with my friends and family at my brother’s school. I took my aunt on a tour of the school and as we walked into a dark corridor, we saw a couple kissing. They saw us and drew apart in embarrassment. Since I knew the girl, I ignored the scene and made casual talk with my aunt so that she would not take the incident too seriously. Unfortunately my aunt had noticed and was righteously indignant. She blurted out when we were out of earshot that she expected nothing less from that girl, as she was an adopted child!

“Don’t know to which prostitute she was born. See she takes after her mothers promiscuous ways!!” fumed my aunt.

I was left speechless. I protested indignantly that my aunt’s statement was uncalled for, but she was too wrapped up in a moralistic blanket to notice. It was almost as if being a prostitute was a personality trait and it was genetic.

Though my aunt’s beliefs are despicable I must thank her for clearing the air for me. I am guilty of being bought up in a circle that thinks that prostitutes are bad. I guess we all are…or maybe not. So I will speak for myself. Most people consider prostitutes bad women. In Hindi they call her a giri hui aurath or “fallen woman”.

But when you think deep about the issue you realize that these women are not bad!!! They didn’t choose this profession because they were promiscuous!!! They chose this profession because they had nothing else left to sell to buy food or were forced into the profession. To believe that they do it for pleasure is stupid.

And when that realization strikes you, you feel only sympathy for these women. I am sure they are normal people like us who want to hold regular job like us. But fate wills otherwise. In a society where your educational qualification counts as your economic index, people who are not equipped with the right qualification lose out and have to eke a living out of what is available after the plum jobs are taken.

Today there is a heated debate going on about legalizing prostitution. I for one support it. We cannot ignore the fact that there are men who will go to prostitutes. It is not going to stop. So why not make it legal so the profession can be regulated and some rules put in place to protect the health of people visiting prostitutes? Besides making the streets a little safer for other women. A sociologist pal says that legalizing prostitution will definitely bring down, if not totally eliminate rape.

I am not advocating the profession. But I hope people will stop looking down on these unfortunate women. And I hope that people accept that it exists and help bring it on par with other professions so that the sex workers, like other employees get their rights as employees worldwide.


Anonymous said...

I agree with what u r saying about legalising prostitution. my belief is that, legalising prostitution will bring down the number of sexual crimes. Women being pushed into prostitution because of dire need for money is one thing and and well educated and well earning girls jumping into this profession to make some quick buck(or just for the kick) is a completely different thing.


Jeseem said...

couldn't agree more. or maybe since i have no exposure to this profession or its people, maybe my views are not formed. good post ms silverline

pophabhi said...

Cheers to you Silver. What a day to make a point!

Completely agree to this, and I had planned to write a story on this.

There has been a movie called 'Oridam' - Which belongs to that category that shows the real life out there - that some people call 'art' movie. Beautifully depicts the life of some prostitutes. I adored that movie for the guts shown in releasing it open in a closed culture like Kerala. Geetu Mohandas has done a great job with KPAC lalitha. A must watch movie.

Spread the theme - Prostitutes are just one among us!

Mind Curry said...

i totally protest against the way your aunt just shot out at the girl..i mean..i agree its the kind of reaction we see very commonly..but its a quite unfair thing to say. (not that my protest counts..still :))

i more or less agree to your thoughts on prostitutes..and there is nothing inferior about fact they may be much nicer than the regular folks we see - who just pretend to be angels.

but not sure if legalizing prostitution is an answer..agreed that it will bring down crimes against women..or maybe not.. because most such crimes are done by abnormal and perverted people..perhaps these maniacs will end up hurting these women. i feel empowering these women will be a better option, but ofcourse a bigger know..finding jobs for them and all..

on the whole i think women's education and employment needs a big big thrust in this country.

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

I'm glad you wrote this.
And I'm glad the emotion behind the post is not pity.

I've always beleved in using my own discretion in defining what's right, and those rights have been my virues and ideals.

circumstances shape a lot of these rights, and thinking in those terms, i think many of our sisters in this profession, are just as virtuous, or many a time far more virtuous than most of us.

Tagging prostitution as illegal is hypocrisy, because the world is not flat anymore!

Sachin R K said...

@Silverine... Timely post on the world's oldest profession.

silverine said...

G: I was talking about people who are forced into this profession due to poverty. I do not know what it is that makes educated and well earning people take up this profession.

jeseem: I think there is enough material in the media and films that gives us a fairly good understanding about these ladies.

pophabhi: Thank you :) Thanks to these art movies, issues that are considered embarassing and brushed under the carpet is bought to the fore clearing the air in the process. I will try and get that movie you mentioned.

mind curry: Unfortunately there are many such people like this aunt of mine :( I feel by legalizing prostitution, these ladies will also get recourse to law. Today a prostitute cannot complain if someone ill treats her or even rapes her.

toothles wonder: You are right. I hate this finger pointing habit we have as a society. Wish people would sympathise with their plight and accept them or leave them alone. Pointing fingers is so easy.

Sachin: Thanks :)

Jay Sun said...

Lovely post...appreciate you honesty about your Aunt's reaction...

While all the comments on your post appear to focus on prostitution and issues linked to it, i would like to point out that people's attitudes can be as biased when it comes to adoption...

We do live in a world of double standards, of convenience...

Pradeep said...

I fully agree with this view point that prostitution is just like any other service. While an employer usually makes use of his employees' intellect, in this trade, a woman's body is made use of.

Empirically, there'sn't much difference between the two. The differnence is an attributed one in terms of social taboo.. and the perceived eminence of the intellect over the physical.

Prostitution must be legalised; treated as a trade, and subjected to all normal rules and regulations.

If one reads literature on sex trade and books written by sex workers, one comes to know that not all men approach prostitutes for only sex.

A prostitute fills for a man a vacuum that has been created by conservative social norms and stereotyped views of sex among men and women. For many men and women, sex within marriage is bound by emotional constraints.

Just we work in an office for money, women aslo take up this profession for money. We all work either because of poverty or fear of poverty. Sex workers are no different.

Coincidentally, I am just about to finish reading the book: Callgirl by Jeannette Angell. She is a PhD, who worked as a university teacher in anthropology in Boston. She also worked as a call girl for three years.

The book gives one a vivid account of her experiences, and people and the industry. The book also gives a detailed bibliography on the subject.

Also about a year back, a sex worker in Kerala, Nalini Jameela, wrote her autobiography.

Anonymous said...

check this out
(example of a famous desi roots girl who am sure went into it for fame and money..)
In the US there are plenty of people who are porn stars and prostitutes( I categorise both as one.)..not because its poverty here. but they want to live that kind of life..where if they do a normal job their earnings are much less and cannot sustain their live style.Many high class prostitues dont do it out of poverty neither are they forced.they may have been lured
but luring and forcing is another live in another world if you think all prostitues are forced into this.Many of them are from impoverished countries of Nepal and Bangladesh and many tricked into it..but a good number do it for the money and maybe a fewer number because they are nymphomaniacs! I have heard of girls who were famous in the mens hostel just because they were nyphomaniacs. A prostitute by def is someone who does sexual favours for anyone in return for any material benefit. If someone in the office seduces or obliges the boss for some material benefit(maybe a hike or promotion) I see no reason in not calling such a person a prostitue (esp. if this happens with no remorse - granted anyone can make mistakes)

alex said...

Like you said, most prostitutes work for the money and not the pleasure. But i understand that there are broadly 2 kinds, one the overt ones which we find in red light areas and the covert ones, who ask a lot of money, need pick up and drop and are extremely secretive.

Probbaly the percentage of these covert ones are less.

People go for their services and they ridicule them too. That is abysmal. They do it out of desperation for money and those who seek the services are desperate for sex.

I too agree the legalization of prostitution. I would think that the working conditions need to be bettered for them. they need to be looked with dignity. And i think if they get legalised, people probably are afraid because they will be accepted into public and will have honour. It is indeed necessary that it be legalised.

Great post silver! :)

I am for the legalisation of drugs too.

emmanuel said...

that's a brave post i shud say.....
the context also is relevant.....
it is an irony that we are yet to legalise or to totally agree with the oldest profession in human history.....

anyway, when we hear that pornography is 10 billion dollar per year industry, just realise that it is just by selling human bodies and satisfying human desires......

a conservative society like us will anyway stand against such an idea....because....a place where a man and a woman can't live together without marriage, these things can't even thought about......

fantastic post...... :)))

mathew said...

some good insights buddy..Legalizing prostitution somehow doesnt augur well from a different point of view..Its just a temporary pain killer and what we need is a cure..Help them get out of it rather than make them stay in it..
There is another breed of prostitutes who are in business just to make the bucks..Legalizing may mean that they loose out on the moral consience..

Admit that it is circumstances that make humans a thief..a prostitute or a anti social..SO rather the solution lies in making conditions conducive to better life..

good post..should be put in other sites to get better reach..and nice to see your take on such sensitive issues..

silverine said...

jay sun: Thanks for removing word verf :) It is indeed a world of double standards which is due to our repressive culture. And your observation about adoption is so true. I have seen it myself. An adopted child goes through tremendous pressure. If he/she does anything wrong, it is blamed on his unknown lineage. We are so cruel :(

displaced: Thanks for your inputs.I was specifically talking of people who were forced to enter the trade due to poverty. I have heard of the cases you mentioned but then there is not much information of the same. So I will decline to comment on that.

Pradeep: "A prostitute fills for a man a vacuum that has been created by conservative social norms...."

That makes so much sense!!! I wish people would think like you instead of getting all hysterical and moralistic. There are so many perspectives to this! Thanks for this real eyeopener of a comment!!!

Alex: Thank you :) Nowadays anything that makes money is adopted. We have grave robbers, organ traffickers etc. You are right, people against legalising prostitution may be afraid that their own daughters may get into it.
Legalisation of drugs is not something I support as narcotic drugs are destructive and addictive!

emmanual: Thank you :) You are so right!! We cannot accept sex outside marriage then how do we accept 'prostitution'! Good point!!!

mathew: Thank you :) My initial reaction was the same. I thought legalising this profession was like making human traficking legal. Then I realised that when it is legalised it will actually curb such activities besides stop the spread of AIDs by compulsory medical check up and use of protection. We cannot wish this away so why not regulate it!? Appreciate your take on this and the good intention behind that :)

Scribbles said...

had nt given much thought to legalizing makes sense
But i definitely dont agree with those who regard prostitutes as the most evil lot...
there are so many artcles abt how these women fall a prey to it ... yet almost all my frens, all of em are young and educated, but they treat prostitutes (also homosexuals) as ur aunt did...
Good post...good thought

G said...

Well done you.

abhishek said...

I used to be of the camp that believed that legalizing prostitution is the wrong way to go about helping prostitutes. But the fact is that many men in india do visit prostitutes and such activities go on covertly, so there's no way to check if people are abused. Plus, prostitution in India is largely an outcome, as you said, of poverty and desperation, whereas in the U.S., it's the result of greed.

There's an overwhelming belief among middle-class women in India, particularly mothers, that their children, especially sons, are not wayward and would never think of hiring a prostitute, but the fact is that prostitutes are frequented by men of all income groups and not just truck drivers, which demonstrates that there are a lot of people out there who lead double lives. At the very least, legalizing the profession will lead to such things coming out into the open and prevent those people from taking advantage of the covert nature of the profession. Right now, people can afford to criticize prostitutes and "have their cake" too.

But I also believe that if we legalize prostitution, we should back it up with just as many measures to reduce the root causes like poverty. For example, legalizing prostitution should be backed by free education and noon meals for the children of prostitutes. Leaving the profession should be encouraged by providing a daily allowance for rations. Unfortunately, at present none of these measures are practical due to the people who run the business and their vested interests in maintaining the status quo.

Your aunt's remarks are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ignorance about these issues. I have sat dumbfounded while hearing some of my friends extol in detail about their youthly "conquests". It is the covert nature of the profession that has created all these situations:
1) Prostitutes are exploited and there's no incentive to change their conditions.
2) Men pursue a double life under the covert nature of the profession.
3) The lay person (someone's mother or sister) remains willfully or unintentionally ignorant of their son's or brother's hypocrisy and indulge in prejudice themselves.

I can't stress the number of parents out there who dismiss prostitution as an underworld (partly encouraged by silly film directors and scriptwriters) and fail to talk to their children about casual sex and the assoiciated dangers. I have seen their children make mistakes and regret them for the rest of their lives as a result. All because the moral compass was missing in the first place and people were discouraged from talking about it.

We should encourage such people as Nalini Jameela to write about themselves so that these facts don't remain secret, lest our children and their children perpetuate this situation.

quills said...

Good post silverine on a very sensitive topic I guess most people would rather not discuss. I am glad you brought this up.

No woman I feel will ever go willingly into this trade if it not were for her circumstances.

I had a roommate in college whose chosen line was social work and as part of her final project she had to spend some time with a few women from the redlight areas in Mumbai, studying their daily lives and educating them on AIDS and HIV and means of protecting themselves as well as subjecting themselves to regular testing. Most women had a very sad tale to tell, but they all want their children to study and somehow get out of this business and lead normal lives. It was so disheartening to hear some of the real life stories and how they came into this profession as young girls without no one to protect them. I guess only through education and empowering them , providing them training in certain skilled jobs, giving them monetary assistance to set up their own business based on the skills they have attained etc, helps.

Your aunt's comment is unfortunate, but I guess lot of peoples' first reaction sadly will be the same. That, firstly has to change has well.

alex said...

The templates get better and better. :)

silverine said...

scribbles: It is ignorance about the ladies in this profession that makes them ridicule them. If they knew the truth they too would feel sympathy for them.

abhishek: Thank you so much for this comment. Things are beginning to get clearer after reading this!! After reading your comment I think what we need is a myth busting exercise so that people know the truth behind the trade and the type of people who use this service. At present this whole thing is clouded under misconceptions!

quills: Thank you :) My senior in college is also into social work of the same kind and some of the things she tells me will make you cry :( It's a horrible horrible world out there for women from poor families.

Alex: Beta gives you the freedom of playing around with templates without worrying about losing the additional stuff you have put in like blog roll etc. So expect frequent changes :)

alex said...

Oh ok. I ddint know that. Because i am still in the old blogger. Thats cool.

LI said...

Hi Silverine , Your support for legalising prostitution is based on two assumptions
1."In a society where your educational qualification counts as your economic index, people who are not equipped with the right qualification lose out and have to eke a living out of what is available after the plum jobs are taken."

This is not true when you consider that many of the news reports highlight the fact that people invloved in this are highly qualified women who want more money to support their lavish lifestyle.Legalisation gives a clean slate to women like these who are involved in the flesh trade just for the sake of it.

2."why not make it legal so the profession can be regulated and some rules put in place to protect the health of people visiting prostitutes?"
This is true to some extent , but there is a moral and social angle to this when you consider that guys arrive in truckloads in Amsterdam and other cities in Netherlands in search of girls and there are gangs which operate to leverage this. In India the situation will be even more worse when you consider that these gangs strive even with in the strict law and order conditions in Netherlands.How will you feel when you cant go to a park or a mall because the only thing that you will be seeing are people making love in public places

However Legalisation will be good in the sense that it will bring down crimes against women and may help in AIDS awareness as well. But this is a very brave post from you.

Jiby said...

great post!

in the movie abhimanyu, mohanlal falls in love with a prostitute. whenever those scenes of him with her came up my dad would tell me to leave. in later years i would wonder whether it was his fear of me asking difficult questions or it leaving a bad impression on my yound mind that made him pack me off. anyways whatever be the reason for that its a pity too many otherwise good people without even bothering to wonder what life would have been in these people's shoes, can pass harsh judgement so easily.

right from the time of the ancient scriptures prostitutes have found place in the Hall of Infamy...not the men who visit them or the ones who pimp them...attitudes wont change easily. since we are more like writers, we tend to think broadly, and that is why you find all of us applauding you for this good post, outside there will be a lot of people squirming in discomfiture if they read your post.

why did you change your template...the other one was better on the readability front and more simple.

Ajith said...

A piece of statistics to support your argument -- Scandinavian nations who have legalized prostitution have the least HIV infection rate among the developed nations.

silverine said...

Alex: Change to beta :)

Lijo: I was talking about the poorer classes who make up the majority of prostitutes. And I don't know anything about the gangs in Netherlands!But I heard the industry is well organised there.

Jiby: Thank you :) You are right about people squirming. As writers we can write but without a public discussion on the same topic this topic will remain enshrouded in mystery and misconceptions.

Ajith: Now That is very interesting!!! Thanks.

Leon said...

"To believe that they do it for pleasure is stupid."

So what if they did? Would it be wrong then?

Do you mean you wouldn't support legalization of prostitution if they did it for pleasure?

It's just that the entire paragraph....

"But when you think deep about the issue you realize that these women are not bad!!! They didn’t choose this profession because they were promiscuous!!! They chose this profession because they had nothing else left to sell to buy food or were forced into the profession. To believe that they do it for pleasure is stupid."...

seems to imply that you DO think the profession itself is bad but that you feel sympathy for those who have been forced into it. That doesn't change your view on the profession itself does it?

So, to summarize, you think the profession is bad but you would want to legalize it!!??

I agree with you that in a free and democratic society, it is impossible to police prostitution and pornography. But is legalization the solution? Not really.. The abuse is going to happen anyway.. Women may even be forced into the profession more.. After all it is a 'legal' profession.. The pimps wouldn't have to worry about too many police raids..

My point is..

EITHER accept that the profession is just another profession- You may like advertising/marketing and I may like computer engg but there are others in this world who like prostitution.. After all it is easy money, one doesn't have to think too much and maybe even get some pleasure on the side (Atleast these are the reasons 80% of the prostitution in America happens by choice, If fact HBO even telecasted a program about prostitutes and show girls from MIT!!)

OR don't advocate legalizing it.. It doesn't make much sense.. IMO i.e.

Fundamentally, if 90% of the population of a society think a certain profession is WRONG or IMMORAL, then it would hardly be appropriate to legalize it. People have to first be able to accept the profession and the IMPLICATIONS. Would you want your husband/fiance/boyfriend to make use of the newly 'legalized' profession... "Oh.. they wouldn't.." you might say.. but SOMEBODY WOULD right? And that somebody would be somebody's husband/fiance/father/boyfriend/brother.. everybody has relations.. So you are effectively clearing the path for what you believe to be wrong. First society must change its beliefs, then the legalization will automatically happen.....

PS: Obviously this comment implies that I'm sitting at home twiddling my thumbs on Friday night.. :D

PPPS: I also wanted to say something about our society, education and economy, but I guess I'll do that in a post on my barren blog..

Shank said...

Its a difficult question, this. Legalising prostitution seems logically sound as long as it is the woman's choice to sell themselves.

But if for a moment we were to extend the concept, to someone who wishes to sell, lets say, their body organs, and legalising this trade, the idea somehow offends me...

silverine said...

Leon: :)) All I am saying is that the attitude of looking down on prostitutes is unfortunate because these ladies are here as they had no choice.

shank: Difficult question it is!

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

I actually lost a very good friend on this subject. She's a passionate 'feminist' and all that. We used to have heated debates on various subjects but I never touched anything that was too close to her heart. This one was, and she brought it up herself. I didn't resist. We both agreed that if prostitution exists, it should be legalised. But she was of the contention that prostitution should not exist. I said as long as men exist, prostitution will too. She was aghast, saying, I was trying to absolve men of the responsibility to control their natural urges, and giving license to behave like animals. I merely said, the average man is not a saint, and if he can't get what he wants by paying for it, he might even get it by force. She couldn't digest this. She always set high moral standards for herself,which was admirable,but then expected the same of the people around her, which was a mistake. Anyways, so she thought I was justifying men to behave like dogs, and got furious with me and stopped communicating after that.