Law Week

Spa Centres or brothels? therapy or prostitution?

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Advocate Aayush Tiwari –

Rigorous debates related to legalization of prostitution in India still continue like the ghost crossword clue while most of the people don’t know that under Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution (that provides for the fundamental right of every citizen to exercise the trade, profession or occupation of his/her choice) personal prostitution is legal in India. It may surprise you that personal prostitution is not illegal while human trafficking, brothel ownership or soliciting sex services are certainly illegitimate under various provisions of the IPC and The Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act (SITA), 1956 .

In the light of police raids on various Spa Centres and massage parlours across the country questions pop up that are these spa centres turning into sophisticated brothels under the facade of therapy? What are the legal provisions around this plus what are the do’s and don’ts if spa/massage centres and illegal sex services interchange under one category.

Spa Centres are registered under Shops and Commercial Establishments Act – (SEA) and by the virtue of this very act get the license to commence their services. Although taking such services is still considered such a taboo in India that if a police raid happens then the person taking such service abides by all illegitimate conditions hence imposed, to avoid the shame and consequently blatant extortion happens even by the law enforcement officials. If a video is made or some electronic media threatens to make such a thing viral then fuel to fire gets added and the bargaining power of the victim indeed gets reduced to an absolute zero. Well, that is a social issue and reputation related call, nevertheless a few bullet points on the legal awareness behind such swoops are indispensable to be highlighted.

So, if the intentions of the victims are legitimate and if the professional ethics are met by the centre then under the above mentioned provisions of SEA and the Constitution the spa owner and the client taking the service get concrete legal rights to refute any possible extortion that may happen capitalising on general belief that such a service is proscribed.

On the other hand if “who knows what deals happen inside the spa room ? ” is the defense statement given on being caught red handed, then the spa owner is in a real deep trouble under section 2(f) of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (that defines prostitution as sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes or for consideration in money or in any other kind).

Massage and spa are health derivatives and can really help in reducing stress and anxiety as observed in present day hustle and bustle. Therefore if the intentions are health related then there is a clean clear-cut way such health prerogatives need to be executed. So many national international hotel chains and spa brands carry out such services with utmost ethics and professionalism. The novices hence entering this business need to learn from them the basics of this echo system and even if their centre operates from some local street rather than a 5 star hotel champus , a robust adherence to the ‘protocols first’, may help them and their clients to avoid a hell lot of trouble in future.

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