oppn parties SC Issues Guidelines To Help Sex Workers

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SC Issues Guidelines To Help Sex Workers

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2022-06-01 10:35:43

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator.

Prostitution, sometimes referred as the oldest profession in the world, was not recognized as a profession in India and although it is not criminal to be a sex worker in India, all associate activities like soliciting and running a brothel still remain criminal acts. Also, sex workers are always looked down upon and never given any rights or privileges, harassed by law-keepers and suffer from many indignities in the society.

Since the legislature has not thought it fit to enact a law for the welfare of sex workers, the Supreme Court has ruled that adult voluntary sex work with consent was a profession and sex workers have the same dignity that all Indian citizens enjoy under Article 21 of the Constitution. Acting on the recommendation of a committee, the court used its special powers under Article 142 to issue guidelines for the treatment of sex workers including directing the police force to treat their complaints with the same seriousness as of any other citizen.

Although many NGOs work with sex workers to ensure that they and their children can lead a dignified life, social prejudices remain. Health issues and education for their children, along with trafficking, remain the big issues that plague the profession. Police harassment and assault by some customers also make life hell for them.

But the major issue is the anomaly in the law which doesn't criminalize sex work but asks it to be done in 'secrecy' and away from public glare and which criminalizes associated activities ensures that it is viewed as 'dirty' and undignified. This leads to the othering of these workers which in turn ensures that they have to lead undignified lives and cannot avail of most government benefits. This has to change. The government must enact a law to regulate the profession and let sex workers lead a better life. But any such law will have to have checks and balances to ensure that the work is voluntary and trafficking must remain illegal.