Bombay High Court observed in a recent ruling that prostitution is not a criminal offence and that women have the right to choose their vocation. The observation was made while ordering the administration to instantly release three young women sex workers who were detained at a corrective home for almost one year now. Justice Prithviraj Chavan also added that a woman cannot be detained without her consent.
Explaining the purpose and role of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (PITA), 1956, the judge said that it doesn’t abolish prostitution. “The exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purposes and soliciting in public places is considered punishable under the law,” he clarified.
What was the case
In September 2019, a social service branch of Mumbai police from Chincholi Binder area in Malad “rescued” the three women through a trap using a decoy customer, reported TOI. Their case was presented before a metropolitan magistrate who ordered the women sex workers to stay at a women’s hostel and asked for a report from the probation officer.
On October 19, 2019, the magistrate reportedly refused to hand over the custody of the women to their respective mothers, saying it was not in the best interest of the women to stay with their parents. Instead, the magistrate said that they should be kept at a women’s hostel in Uttar Pradesh.
The probation officers’ report later revealed that the three women were from a particular community from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, that had a long-standing tradition of prostitution.
On November 22, 2019, after the magistrate’s order was upheld by Dindoshi sessions court, the women moved HC with the help of advocate Ashok Saraogi.
Reportedly, the Bombay High Court later found several “glaring discrepancies” in the raid report and noted the failure of the magistrate in inquiring whether the alleged solicitor was running a brothel or procuring women. Further, the Bombay HC criticised the metropolitan magistrate for not handing over the women to their respective parents and rather ordered their detention in a corrective home. The HC also criticised the Dindoshi sessions court for upholding the detention of the three women against their consent.
Image Credit: The Indian Express
Khushi Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.