Why is male prostitution in India so problematic, despite its prevalence?

Do invert sex trafficking and tourism ring any bells? You know, male escorts, massages, and street workers? Well, it’s a big thing in India. Unlike in most other countries, where women practice sex work — voluntary and forced — India’s prostitution circles largely consist of male sex workers. 


Yep, you’ve read that correctly. Wealthy female clients travel to Mumbai to get a piece of the action with young Indian men. But there’s a catch. It’s not all so peachy as it might sound. Aside from prostitution being made illegal by the Indian government, this practice is unsafe and shady at best. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and allow us to explain better in the following few paragraphs.

Male Prostitution in India

When someone mentions sex work and human trafficking, most of us think about female prostitutes. And that’s okay. It’s simply the narrative in most Western countries, as the vast majority of voluntary and forced prostitutes are women and girls. But what about males who sell sexual services? Well, the best examples of their rights and working conditions are in the world’s second-most populous country — India.


Like anywhere else in the world, prostitution in India is active after hours. When the sun goes down, nicely dressed young men go out to the streets and await the clients — both men and women. They gather around luxury cars that stop on the sidewalk, offer their services to passers-by, and do everything else hookers usually do. Of course, the action takes place in remote sites, such as motel rooms, parks, railway stations, etc.


Male hookers in India form three major groups: masseurs, street workers, and fancy escorts. Their backgrounds differ from financial to educational. And as such, their clients are different too. For example, escorts will cater to wealthy people in need of a sexual experience, while street workers will work for folks with less money in their pockets. Either way, male sex trade in India is very much alive and going strong nowadays.

India Conceives a Conservative Society

It’s no secret that India is a pretty traditional and conservative society. Aside from women and children not having much say, homosexual men and prostitutes lack any rights. As such, their rights are barely existing, almost none. They’re frequent targets of violent outbursts from others and often end up beaten to death by angry mobs.


Nevertheless, male prostitution has roots in Indian traditions. Interestingly enough, boys who show feminine qualities and are from poor rural families often become dancers in female clothing — Laundas. Families who can’t pay for more expensive female dancers at weddings enjoy their services. Unfortunately, they typically treat them violently and without respect.


Some reports talk about cases where groups of men at parties take Laundas into nearby fields and gang-rape them. As hideous as this sounds, they suggest that it’s not uncommon for such scenarios to occur. Nevertheless, Indian people cherish masculinity. Hence, many young men go into prostitution willingly, looking to serve wealthy female clients.

Foreigners Are Frequent Customers

Like we’ve said, sex tourism is a massive issue for India. Many people from wealthier parts of the world travel to their country to enjoy services with their male and female prostitutes. But why is this so? Well, it all comes down to money. Selling sex in India isn’t the most lucrative profession in the country. On the other hand, the number of choices a man from, let’s say, the United States has when he comes to India is vast and overwhelming.


But why do we portray this in such a negative light? It’s simple — prostitutes battle over foreign clients when they plague the sex market. And in some cases, this phenomenon turns into physical violence between hookers that ends in deaths, too. Yet, it furthermore disrupts the prices they have to offer to their native clients. In fact, they charge other Indians less than they would to earn at least something.

Male Brothels Are Inadequate

Prostitution and brothels go hand in hand, don’t they? For example, Amsterdam, famous for its Red-Light District, is full of designated houses where prostitutes work. The sex workers are safe and have adequate conditions, just like all other workers. But Amsterdam is a city where selling sex is legal, and it’s quite the opposite of India in this regard.


In India, brothels do exist. However, they’re either for female sex workers or in poor conditions for male prostitutes. But what do poor conditions mean when it comes to sex work? Well, firstly, they’re not hygienic and belong in shady parts of cities where it’s easy for some whacko to endanger the workers.

Male Prostitutes Experience Abuse and Violence Too

In countries and cities where the state government sees prostitution as legal, brothels have security that doesn’t allow for harm to happen to sex workers. And in case they don’t have any, the cops are more than willing to come in and solve any issues. But in India, it’s the opposite. The police and the rest of the public, in general, are not fond of male prostitutes at all. They also engage in abusing and beating them up.


But it’s not just about violence and abuse in brothels. Male prostitutes face these vicious attacks on the streets every other day. We’ve already mentioned how it’s not uncommon for groups of men to take a Launda into the field and gang-rape them. Well, the same can happen on every street corner. From time to time, we hear news reports about women being raped in India, but men are frequent victims of this crime just as well.

They Get Cheated on and Receive Threats

The lack of security prostitutes that work the streets have in India means one more thing. They are often on the receiving end of fraud. For example, they might serve a person or a group, and when it comes time to charge them, well, they end up short. Unfortunately, if they raise their voice and ask for the money, they once again get beaten up. But the sad part is that they have no one to turn to in these situations, as prostitution is illegal.


Yet, this isn’t always the case. As we’ve mentioned, there are elite male prostitutes in India who deal with wealthy women. Their clients rarely cheat on them when it comes to paying, but they’re still a minority. Threats and cheating typically occur when it comes to male prostitutes who work streets and engage in homosexual acts. In fact, it’s common in rural areas where violence against gays and sex workers is more prominent.

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