Sex as a work
• The long-standing demand of sex workers that their work be freed from crime has been partially met with the Supreme Court passing an order on May 19 that respect and equal protection under the Adult Sex Workers Act.
• Directing the police to respect the rights of consenting sex workers, the court observed that “…every person, irrespective of profession, has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution”.
• It reiterated what the Court had ruled in Buddhadev Karmaskar (2011), that sex workers are also entitled to a “life of honour”.
• The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill yet to see the light of the day, the Court used the powers under Article 142 to issue guidelines till the law comes into force.
• The court has asked the government to respond to the panel’s suggestions within six weeks. Holding that the basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, the court has dealt a blow to the rights of an exploited, vulnerable section.
• Coming down heavily on the police’s brutal and violent “attitude” towards sex workers, the Court said, “they seem to be a class whose rights are not recognized”.
• It has asked state governments to conduct a survey of protective homes under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, the law governing sex work in India, to review cases of “adult women” detained there and to process their release in a time bound manner.
• The ITP Act penalizes acts such as running a brothel, soliciting in a public place, living on the earnings of a sex worker and living with or habitually.
• The court’s general observations should help sensitize the police, media and society to sex workers, who have generally been invisible and voiceless.
• It is in the hands of the government to enact appropriate legislation to free consent sex workers from stigma and to provide them workers’ rights.
• In that too, the court suggested the Center and the states to involve sex workers or their representatives to reform the laws.
Right to respect
• The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment also recognized prostitution as a “profession” and said that sex workers “are entitled to respect and equal protection under the law.”
• At the same time, the court has directed the media not to publish pictures of sex workers during raids and rescues.
• The court said that if the media shows pictures of sex workers with customers, then a case under section 354 of the IPC should be registered.
• The court has asked the Press Council of India to issue guidelines for the media.
• Also the court has directed the police to treat sex workers with respect.
• The Supreme Court has issued special instructions to police forces in all states and union territories to treat sex workers with respect and not to indulge in any kind of verbal or physical abuse against them.
Equal rights for sex workers
• The court said, “Needless to say whether you believe in the profession or not, every person in this country has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Sex workers are also entitled to equal protection under the law.” ”
• Issued accepting certain recommendations made by a court-appointed panel on the rights of sex workers. The bench has said that these directions will remain in force till the central government brings a law.
• The court said that if a sex worker is sexually abused, then he should also be provided protection under the law and all other facilities including medical aid should be provided to such victims immediately. “It has been observed that the attitude of the police towards sex workers is often violent and cruel.
• It seems that they belong to a class whose rights are not recognized. Police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitive to the rights of sex workers.”