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SC says sex work is a 'legal profession' and advised Cops to treat the sex workers with dignity

Prabhat Bandhulya | 26th May

Supreme Court pronounced that sex work is a 'legal profession' and advised Cops to treat the sex workers with dignity.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao on May 25 has recognised prostitution as a profession, and ordered police to treat sex workers with dignity while issuing six directions safeguarding the interests of sex workers. The apex court has said states and union territories must ensure compliance with its order. The three -judge bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai, and AS Bopanna said, "Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity." Bench said that voluntary getting involved in sex work is not illegal but running a brothel is not permissible by law. Fruther bench added that sex workers are entitled to a dignified life and it is guaranteed to them by the Constitution of India under Article 21. The Court asked the police to not interfere or take any criminal actions against sex workers, who work willingly

“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," said the SC.

The court ordered the Cops to make sure that

  • They do not arrest, penalise, harass, or victimise in raids on brothels and make sure that a child is not separated from the mother if found in a brothel.

  • The baby of a sex worker should not be taken away from his or her mother solely because she works in the sex trade.

  • if a child is found living with sex workers then the police should not presume that the minor was trafficked. “Basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children,” the bench said.

Further, the court in its order advised that the

  • police should note that if a sex worker is lodging a complaint, then she should not be discriminated and especially if the complaint lodged deals with sexual harassment. Sex workers should also be provided with every facility which normal citizens get without any discrimination including immediate medico-legal care.

  • The court noted. “It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised,” said the bench.

In the concluding remarks, the Supreme Court headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao asked the central government to respond to the aforementioned recommendations. The court will resume with the hearing as the Centre will give its response on July 27.

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