The Supreme Court has directed that police should not intervene or take criminal action against adult and consenting sex workers in a significant order that recognizes sex work as a “profession” whose practitioners are entitled to dignity and equal protection under the law.
The apex court added that “prostitution is a profession. And sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection under the law.”
“It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the court observed.
The Bench ruled that sex workers should not be “arrested, penalized, harassed, or victimized”. Whenever a brothel is raided. “Because voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is illegal.”
Supreme Court: Sex Workers entitled to Article 14
“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,” the court said after invoking special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The court ruled that a child of a sex worker should not be separated from his or her mother solely because she works in the sex trade. “Basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children,” the court noted.
Furthermore, if a minor is discovered living in a brothel or with sex workers. It should not be assumed that the child is a victim of human trafficking. “In case the sex worker claims that he/she is her son/daughter, tests can be done to determine if the claim is correct and if so, the minor should not be forcibly separated,” the court ordered.
The court ordered the police not to discriminate against sex workers who file a criminal complaint, especially if the offence is sexual in nature. Sex workers who are victims of sexual assault should be provided with all necessary services. Including immediate medical and legal care.
Media should take “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”. The bench said.