‘A law which legalizes prostitution’

A little known law in Kashmir, the Public Prostitutes Registration Rules, 1921 makes the State the only one where the ‘prostitution is legal.’

According to the Public Prostitutes Registration Rules, 1921, a prostitute can carry on her trade legally if she registers herself with the District Magistrate. She has to fill in a simple application form, file it in person and pay Rs 5 as fee. Though, the State tries its sex offenders under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA) and the sections of its own Ranbir Penal Code, the rules of 1921 have not been repealed. The rules are still published in J&K Laws, the State’s statute book.

Sanctioned by the Darbar of the then Maharja Hari Singh vide Chief Minister letter No 17197, dated February 12, 1921, these rules were first published in Government Gazette of the same year.

The rules define a public prostitute as ”a woman who earns her livelihood by offering her person to lewdness for hire.” The rules also allow for the role of a brothel keeper and defines him or her as ”the occupier of any house, room, tent, boat, or place resorted to by person of both sexes for the purpose of committing sexual immorality.” However, the brothel keeper has to ensure that he does not keep the prostitutes who are not registered with the Government.

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