GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, M.S.

Contact No. – 09404955338

 

Prostitute in perspective of Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

"Prostitute" is derived from the Latin prostitute. Some sources cite the verb as a composition of "pro" meaning ‘up front’ or ‘forward’ and ‘situere’, defined as "to offer up for sale".  Another explanation is that ‘prostituta’ is a composition of pro and statuere. A literal translation would be: ‘to put up front for sale’ or ‘to place forward’.  Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute. The legal status of prostitution varies from country to country. Prostitution occurs in a variety of forms. Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution. In escort prostitution, the act may take place at the customer's residence or hotel room or at the escort's residence or in a hotel. Another form is street prostitution. Sex tourism refers to travelling.

In India prostitution the exchange of sexual services for money is legal but a number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place. In ancient India, there was a practice of having nagarvadhus, ‘brides of the town’. Famous examples include Amrapali, state courtesan and Buddhist disciple, described in Vaishali Ki Nagarvadhu by Acharya Chatursen and Vasantasena, a character in the classic Sanskrit story of Mricchakatika, written in the 2nd century BC by Sudraka. The Devadasis, who performed in temples, were described as ‘temple prostitutes. During the East India Company’s rule in India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was initially fairly common for British soldiers to frequently visit local Indian dancers. Mahatma Gandhi knew that their life full of sorrow. So he did many efforts for them.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Any prostitute or person procuring women for immoral purposes.”1 “Any prostitute or person living on the earnings of prostitution or procuring women for immoral purposes.”2 “It was Brahmins who taught that the prostitute and the Chandal could attain moksha if she or he only purified her or his heart.”3 “Ravana carried away the chaste and devoted Sita and the demon kingdom was destroyed. Had he kidnapped a prostitute, the world would not today be remembering Ravana, adoring the prostitute. If a criminal is punished too severely, the world does not care. If, however, even the hair of an innocent person is touched, the world will not bear it.”4 “I should certainly use these terms in connection with cloth. Foreign cloth for an Indian to wear would be impure. I would not apply this to the case of the Indians in England, for instance; yet just as a man is not an impure being simply because he wears impure cloth, so also a person leading an impure life does not purify himself because he wears pure clothes. The economic value of what I call shuddha cloth, i.e., khaddar, is always there; that is why even a prostitute may wear pure khaddar and help to that extent to keep out foreign cloth.”5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The second occasion was more dreadful than the first one. I was not so innocent then as I was at the time of the first incident, though I was of course more vigilant. Moreover, I had the protection of a vow administered to me by my revered mother. But this time the place was in England. I was in the very flush of youth. Two of us friends were lodged in one house. We had gone there only for a few days. The land-lady was as good as a prostitute. Two or three of us sat down to play cards with her. In those days I used to play cards on occasion. In England, a mother and a son can, and do, play cards for innocent amusement. On this occasion too, we sat down to play, following the usual custom. The beginning was completely innocent. I, of course, did not know that the landlady lived on her body. But as the play warmed up, the atmosphere changed. The woman started making gestures. I was observing my friend. He had abandoned all restraints. I felt tempted. I was flushed in the face, for lust had entered me and I had become impatient.”6 “A temple, to be a house of worship, to be a temple of God, has got to conform to certain well-defined limitations. A prostitute has as much right to go to a house of worship as a saint. But she exercises that right when she enters the temple to purify herself. But when the trustees of a temple admit a prostitute under cover of religion or under cover of embellishing the worship of God, then they convert a house of God into one of prostitution. And if anybody no matter how high he may be comes to you and seeks to justify the admission of women of ill fame into your temples for dancing or any such purpose, reject him and agree to the proposal that I have made to you. If you want to be good Hindus, if you want to worship God, and if you are wise, you will fling the doors of all your temples open to the so-called untouchables. God makes no distinction between His worshippers. He accepts the worship of these untouchables just as well and as much as that of the so-called touchable, provided it comes from the bottom of the heart.”7

Mahatma Gandhi suggested, “I saw it all. I knocked at the door. No reply! I knocked heavily so as to make the very walls shake. The door was opened. I saw a prostitute inside. I asked her to leave the house, never to return.”8 “I am aware that amongst those who wear khadi many men may be hypocrites, impostors, frauds and scoundrels. But those are common faults. Even those who do not wear khadi can have them. Even those who do not use khadi can be impostors or scoundrels. So if such a man is an impostor or a fraud at least one good thing about him would be that he does wear khadi. I came across a prostitute who wears khadi. She said to me: ‘Pray to God so that fallen women like me are absolved of our sins.”9

Mahatma Gandhi told, “It is true that most of those who beat up a thief are themselves white thugs. That is why when in old times some people started stoning a prostitute, Jesus said gently: “He that is pure among you, let him cast the first stone.” The narrator says that none had the courage to cast a stone at her. How can a sieve with a hundred holes laugh at the jug with only one? That pickpocket was perhaps starving without a loaf to eat, but the white thug steals to gratify the cravings of the flesh. The idea of non-violence came into being as an extension of the thought that a sinner had no right to sit in judgment over another. It does not matter if we cannot reach the waters of the lake of nonviolence; it is enough for us to touch the shore of common justice.”10 “For saving the prostitutes from their profession, it is necessary that men should cease to be beasts. As long as we have beast like men in the world, so long shall we have prostitutes. If any prostitutes give up their profession and turn a new leaf in their lives, the so called respectable men will certainly come forward to marry them. It is not true that once a prostitute, always a prostitute.”11

“I often think about what you wrote in your personal letter. These are troubled times and it is difficult to keep one’s moorings at such a time. Be sure about this: that reason without moral sense is like a prostitute who may be outwardly attractive, may dance and sing and cast a spell on one, but who will ruin a man. I see the prostitute reason doing that to many people at the present time.”12  “In the case of khadi I want to apply this to mean that so long as we have not understood the principle underlying khadi, we should regard all our other work as futile. If 30 crores of people want to clothe themselves, why should they use the cloth made in the mills of Paris or Ahmadabad and not one made by the hands of the poor? Khadi may be worn by the devout as well as by the hypocrite or the treacherous; by the chastest of wives as well as by a prostitute. There was a time when only this cloth was made in India and no other, hence everyone used khadi and nothing else. It is not that there were no thieves or robbers then, or that there were no prostitutes, but they did not understand either the significance of or the principle underlying khadi.”13 But Mahatma Gandhi was stopped this social evil completely. It needed sufficient time. Mahatma Gandhi was busy in freedom struggle of India.

 

References:

 

  1. NEW TRANSVAAL IMMIGRATION BILL; Before July 11, 1907
  2. VOL. 7 : 15 JUNE, 1907 - 12 DECEMBER, 1907 411
  3. LETTER TO MAGANLAL GANDHI; October 9, 1920
  4. VOL. 25: 27 OCTOBER, 1921 - 22 JANUARY, 1922 395
  5. VOL. 29 : 16 AUGUST, 1924 - 26 DECEMBER, 1924 249
  6. VOL. 31 : 22 MARCH,1925 -15 JUNE, 1925 347
  7. VOL. 40: 2 SEPTEMBER, 1927 - 1 DECEMBER, 1927 460
  8. VOL. 44 : 16 JANUARY, 1929 - 3 FEBRUARY, 1929 213
  9. Aaj, 30-9-1929
  10. Navajivan, 19-7-1931
  11. 11.  LETTER TO PREMABEHN KANTAK; August 26, 1932
  12. 12.  LETTER TO CHHAGANLAL JOSHI; July 26, 1936
  13. VOL. 72 : 6 JULY, 1937 - 20 FEBRUARY, 1938 467

 

 

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