SC Orders In Favour Of Sex Work & Volunteer Prostitution! Here’s More About Their Rights & Laws

The Supreme Court of India observed, “It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.” A SC-appointed panel has recommended various guidelines including one that “Whenever there is a raid on any brothel since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised.”

“In the interim, the sex workers could be kept in these homes and if the magistrate decides that the sex worker had consented, they could be let out,” the order stated. Justice Rao was of the firm opinion that the concerned authorities cannot force sex workers to stay in correction/shelter homes against their will.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao issued six directions for safeguarding the rights of sex workers. The Bench said, “Sex workers are entitled to equal protection of the law. Criminal law must apply equally in all cases on the basis of age and consent. When it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is participating with consent, the police must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action. 

It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution.” The bench also ordered that sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised in raids on brothels since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful. 

The child of a sex worker should not be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade, the court held. “Basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children,” the court noted. 

Meanwhile, The Supreme court also ordered the police to not discriminate against sex workers who lodge a complaint, especially if the offence committed against them is of sexual nature. Sex workers who are victims of sexual assault should be provided with every facility, including immediate medico-legal care. 

“The media should take utmost care to not reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not publish or telecast any photo that would result in disclosure of such identities,” said the Court. The court has also asked the Centre to give its response to these recommendations on the next date of hearing, July 27.

Laws in other countries:

While some countries have banned the practice, the others have attempted to regulate prostitution and provide health and social benefits to sex workers. In New Zealand, Germany, Greece and Canada, prostitution is legal, and the sex workers get some other facilities and benefits too. 

What will change in India if the Center accepts the court’s direction?

a) Sex workers will be afforded equal legal protection.

b) If a sex worker reports a criminal/sexual or other type of offence, the police will take it seriously and act in accordance with the law.

c) If a brothel is raided, the sex workers involved will not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised.

d) Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault will be given all of the same services as a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical attention.

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