In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court instructed police officers not to interfere with or prosecute consenting sex workers. It stated that sex work is a profession, and sex workers are entitled to respect and equal legal protection.
A panel of Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai, and AS Bopanna issued a slew of directives, saying that the constitutional protection afforded to all citizens in the country must be kept in mind by authorities charged with enforcing the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
Supreme Court on sex workers:
The following are some of the directions issued by the court that need to be addressed in order to protect sex workers’ rights:
– According to the Court, sex workers are entitled to equal protection under the law. Criminal law must apply consistently in all circumstances based on age and consent. When it is evident that the sex worker is an adult who is engaged with consent, the police must not intervene or take any criminal action. The court went on to say that, under Article 21 of the Constitution, every individual in this country has the right to a dignified existence, regardless of their profession.
– The court also ruled that in raids on brothels, sex workers should not be jailed, penalised, harassed, or victimised because voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running brothels is.
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– The court ruled that a child of a sex worker should not be separated from her mother only because she works in the sex trade. The court stated that “basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children.”
– According to the court, it has been noted that police attitude toward sex workers are frequently aggressive and violent. It’s as if they’re a class whose rights aren’t acknowledged. The court also instructed the police not to discriminate against sex workers who file a complaint, particularly if the offence is sexual in nature. Sex workers who are sexual assault survivors should be given every convenience, including rapid medical and legal assistance.
– The court stated that the media should take “extreme care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, whether as victims or accused, during arrest, raid, and rescue operations, and not print or telecast any images that may result in disclosure of their identities.”
– At the same time, Justice Rao was adamant that the authorities could not force sex workers to stay in corrections or shelters against their will.
On the next date of hearing, July 27, the court has requested the Centre to respond to these proposals.