‘No single hand can produce claps’ A Feminist Evaluation of Customers Liability for Availing Sexual Services under Indian law.
by Prabha Kotiswaran. GNLU LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW. Sex work debates around the world are saturated with normative questions around the commodification of women’s bodies and whether selling sexual services is an assault on women’s
dignity and human rights or whether it is merely an expression of their economic and sexual agency
in a world where a range of intimate services is routinely sold on the market.
- For feminists who have styled themselves after the crusaders campaigning for the abolition of
transatlantic slavery (like William Wilberforce) in that they treat sex work as yet another form of
slavery, namely, sexual slavery, the role of the male customer in accessing sexual services is
particularly key. These neo-abolitionist radical feminists have for long argued that sex work is a
manifestation of patriarchal power and that in economic terms, the most effective way for
eliminating sex work would be to clamp down on the demand for sex work. This position is in line
with their consistent critique of anti-sex work laws which are invariably implemented against sex
workers themselves rather than against customers of sex workers. Hence, they make the demand
for decriminalising sex workers while criminalising customers of sex workers, a policy also known
as partial decriminalisation. Sweden was one of the first countries to explicitly operationalise this
position, and thereafter the “Swedish model” as it came to be known, has been taken up with
enthusiasm in several countries including South Korea (in 2004), Finland (2006), South Africa
(2008), Iceland (2009), Norway (2009), Canada (2014), Northern Ireland (2015), Spain (2015),
France (2016), the Republic of Ireland (2017), and Israel (2018).