Beyond the allures of Criminalization: Rethinking the regulation of sex work in India

Prabha Kotiswaran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the shifting trends in prostitution law and policy in the postcolonial context of India. Indian law has since the 1950s criminalized several aspects of the commercialization of prostitution rather than the sale of sex for money per se. Of late however, following international trends around human trafficking and the relatively popular Swedish model, the Indian state has been keen to criminalize further the demand for sexual services. The competing prerogative of HIV prevention has however powerfully helped counter this trend towards increased criminalization. The Indian sex workers’ movement has also attempted to shift the policy terrain by reframing prostitution as a form of livelihood, in other words, sex work. While the counter-vailing logic of pandemic control has offered sex workers some respite, the article argues that Indian sex workers’ intertwined claims to both recognition and redistribution, to draw on Nancy Fraser, can only be realized by acknowledging the increasing disutility of the policy vocabulary around sex work and reassessing the materiality of law in all its forms, particularly its relationship to the political economy of sex markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-579
Number of pages15
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Issue number5
Early online date20 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Governmentality
  • HIV
  • Indian sex workers’ movement
  • legal mobilization
  • trafficking


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond the allures of Criminalization: Rethinking the regulation of sex work in India'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this