New Delhi: In an important judgment, the Supreme Court said that prostitution is a profession and sex workers are entitled to due respect and protection under the law.
The court ordered the police that it cannot take any action nor has the right to interfere against adults and sex workers who indulge in prostitution of their own free will.
A three-member bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao has issued six guidelines for protection of rights of sex workers.
Which case was the court hearing?
The Supreme Court gave these orders while hearing a petition filed regarding the difficulties faced by sex workers during the corona virus epidemic. The orders came on the recommendations of a panel set up for the rehabilitation of sex workers.
Right to live a dignified life for every citizen – Court
The bench said that sex workers are entitled to equal protection under the law. Uniform criminal law should apply in all cases on the basis of consent and age. When it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is participating voluntarily, the police should refrain from interfering and taking criminal action.
The court said that every citizen has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Illegal to run brothel – Court
The court said that sex workers should not be arrested or harassed during raids on brothels. It is illegal to run a brothel, but it is not illegal to be involved in this work.
The order states that a child cannot be separated from the mother merely on the ground that he is a sex worker. On the other hand, if a minor is found living in a brothel, then it should not be assumed that he has been smuggled.
These instructions given to the police
The court has ordered the police not to discriminate in filing complaints of sex workers. Especially in cases where the offense committed against them is of a sexual nature. All facilities, including medical and legal, should be provided to the sex workers who have been victims of sexual assault immediately.
Taking cognizance of the violent and dreadful attitude of the police against sex workers, the court has called for the need to make the police more sensitive.
Instructions issued to the media
The Supreme Court has also issued instructions for the media in the order. It said that utmost care needs to be taken to protect the identity of sex workers during arrests, raids or rescue operations. No picture or video should be broadcast, which would reveal the identity of the victim or the accused.
The order states that articles like condoms cannot be produced as evidence of an offence.
In September, 2020, the Bombay High Court also gave a big order regarding prostitution.
The court then held that prostitution is not considered an offense under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and an adult woman has every right to choose her occupation.
The court had said that in this law, sexual exploitation for commercial purpose and indecent act in public place has been considered as an offense and punishable.