The Supreme Court on Thursday recognized sex work as a profession, saying the fundamental protection of human decency and dignity is extended to every citizen of the country, including sex workers and their children.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao invoked the special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and ordered the police to refrain from interfering or taking criminal action against female workers adult and consenting sex.
According to the Apex Court, “Notwithstanding occupation, every individual in this country is entitled to a dignified life under Section 21 of the Constitution.”
According to the Court, sex workers are entitled to equal protection of the law. The criminal law should apply equally in all cases, based on age and consent, he added.
The Court observed that the police must refrain from interfering with or bringing criminal charges against an adult sex worker, who was participating with her consent.
Speaking of raids, the Court ordered that sex workers not be arrested, penalized, harassed or victimized during a raid on a brothel.
“Voluntary sex work is not illegal, but running a brothel is illegal,” the Apex Court noted.
It stipulated that a child of a sex worker should not be separated from his mother simply on the grounds that she was engaged in the sex trade.
In the event that a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that the child has been trafficked, the court said, adding that allegations regarding the children’s maternal lineage could be verified by testing.
The headquarters ordered the police to refrain from discriminating against sex workers, who file a criminal complaint, particularly if the offense committed against them was of a sexual nature.
Sex workers, who have been sexually assaulted, should be given every facility, including immediate forensic care, the Court noted, adding that police should be made aware of their behavior with sex workers .
The Chamber also advised the media regarding cases related to sex workers, telling them to be very careful not to reveal the identities of sex workers and not to publish their photographs during arrests, raids or rescue operations, in order to hide their identity.
The Apex Court also ordered police not to interpret actions taken by sex workers, such as condom use, as evidence of their “offence”.
He called on central and state governments to involve sex workers or their representatives in reforming laws.