In historic verdict, SC recognises sex work as a profession

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The Supreme Court, in a historical order, told police that they should refrain from interfering and taking criminal action against consenting sex workers, reports India Today.

The apex court added that “prostitution is a profession and sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection under the law.”

A three-judge Bench under Justice L Nageswara Rao gave six directions for safeguarding sex workers’ rights. 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 added that sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised through raids on brothels because voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful.

A sex worker’s child should not be deprived of her mother’s care “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 it said

The court also instructed cops not to discriminate against sex workers who lodge a complaint, if the offence 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.

“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,” the court said, calling for sensitisatio

The court added 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”.

The bench observed that use of condoms “should not be construed by the police as evidence of offence by sex workers. Sex workers rescued and produced before a magistrate shoiuld be sent to correctional homes for not less than two-three years.”

“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.

The court has asked the Union govcernmemnt to respond to these recommendations on the next date of hearing which is July 27.

The apex court also added that “utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities”.

Voyeurism is a criminal offence, the court as per report said.

Both the Centre and States must involve sex workers or their representatives in the process of reformation of laws, the court pointed out.

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