Sex work not illegal, treat sex workers with dignity and decency, says SC

The Court’s order said that sex workers are “entitled to dignity and equal protection under law”, under Article 21 of the Constitution

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Wednesday recognised sex work as a “profession”, noting that police officials “should neither interfere nor take criminal action against adult and consenting sex workers”, the Hindu reported.

The Court’s order said that sex workers are “entitled to dignity and equal protection under law”, under Article 21 of the Constitution.

According to a report in the Hindu, Justice L Nageswara Rao, who was heading the three-judge bench that gave the order, invoked “special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution”.

The court noted that voluntary sex work is not illegal but running a brothel is, and hence, “sex workers should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised” during raids.

The court noted that a sex worker’s child cannot be separated from her solely on the ground of their mother’s profession, and minors living in brothels can be tested to “determine” if they are actually the child of the sex worker, rather than just assuming that they were “trafficked”.

The Hindu reported that the court has said that sex workers cannot be discriminated against by police officials when they “lodge a criminal complaint, especially if the offence committed against them is of a sexual nature”. The court said that they should be provided medico-legal care and the police should be sensitised towards them.

The apex court also ordered the police to not “reveal the identities of sex workers” in front of the media. Live Law reported, “The Press Council of India has been directed to issue appropriate guidelines in this regard.”

Besides that, the court recommended that the Centre and States “involve sex workers to reform laws”. According to Live Law, the SC suggested that States inspect “ITPA protective homes” to rescue trafficked women.

According to the court, what the sex workers do for their “health and safety” cannot be “construed as an offence”, said a report in Live Law, citing the example of using a condom. The court ordered for workshops to be held for sex workers to make them aware of their rights.

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