On the absurdity of Shweta Basu spending two months in a rehabilitation home
The word ‘Kafkaesque’ is a much abused cliché, but in the case of Shweta Basu Prasad it might well apply. Last week, she was released from a rescue home after being arrested for prostitution, and is currently trying to salvage her reputation by courageously appearing before the media to put forth her side of things. One element in it is to deny a statement that she purportedly gave after the arrest admitting that she turned to prostitution for money because she had to support her family. She now says they are not hard up and that the statement was cooked up.
In interviews after her release, she has talked about teaching children in the remand home and living through it by thinking of herself as playing the character of a school teacher. On the question of the case itself, she does not comment. There is no reason to believe or disbelieve her because it is irrelevant. Even if we assume that she had been a sex worker, what she has gone through is surreal.
Shweta has spent close to two months being ‘rehabilitated’ in a rescue home. She had been sent there for six months but was fortunately given some reprieve. How exactly the Hyderabad Police caught her is not very clear but there have been newspaper reports which suggest it was entrapment. Only her name was outed—none of her clients have been identified and humiliated in public. If she was being rescued from evil men, then it should have been the other way around— they should have been shamed, and her identity kept private.
There is also the absolute lack of comprehension of the concept of freedom of choice by those who have been persecuting her. She is 23 years old, and, at an age when people are free to choose what they do with their bodies. There are red light areas where women are kidnapped, put in cages and forced to solicit. These are fit cases to be rescued and rehabilitated. For any woman or man who gets into sex work out of their own volition, the only thing the State should do is create the conditions for them to work without harassment from their clients, pimps or the police.
Just as it is no business of the police to put a man who has consensual sex with a woman in jail but to do so with a man who rapes a woman, similarly, it should rescue those women who are forced into prostitution and leave alone those who get into the profession knowing what they are getting into. The reason the police don’t make that distinction is that they think prostitution is an evil by itself and also, in cases like this, where there is glamour and the film industry involved, they get enormous publicity. Given that a majority in this country share their blinkered morality, they also know that it is a safe thing to do.
A government rescue home when there is no rescuing to be done is not something anyone should endure. Or, at the very least, such rescues should be done of personnel in professions known to do more evil than prostitution—the police, for instance.