"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and
rights."- Eleanor Roosevelt.
Part III of the Indian constitution guarantees fundamental rights, which are
meant to preserve and protect people, Article 21 of the Indian constitution
provides that "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty
except according to procedure established by law."The right to life is the most
fundamental right of citizens and non-citizens from the alien country.
In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the apex court elaborated that
the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity.
In the case of Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator
, the Union Territory of
Delhi extended the meaning of the right to life beyond the protection of limb or
faculty to include the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along
with it, namely, the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition,
clothing and shelter and also the right to carry on such functions and
activities as constituting the bare minimum expression of the human-self.
In the case of Kharak Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
, the honorable Apex Court
held that the term life here used something more is meant than mere animal
existence. It means the right to live with human dignity.
Who are Sex workers
The adoption of the term 'sex worker' in the 1970s. Sex workers are adults who
receive money or other forms of compensation in exchange for consensual sexual
services, either regularly or occasionally.
A sex worker can be female, male, or transgender.
There are over 800,000 sex workers in India and the unofficial number is even
higher & it is also income-generating activity.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that sex workers support
between five and eight other people with their earnings. Sex workers also
contribute to the economy. In four countries surveyed, ILO found that the sex
industry provides between 2 and 14 percent of gross domestic product. In
Thailand, for example, the sex industry generated about US$6.4 billion in 2015,
a figure which accounted for 10 percent of Thailand's GDP.
What are the reasons for women to engage in sex work?
Is prostitution legal in India
- Lack of education and low socioeconomic status
- Family reasons and lack of social support
- Family tradition
- Deception by known people or Forced sex
- Deception by unknown people.
Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal
- Per se prostitution is legal in India but not regulated, some acts of
prostitution are addressed as illegal
- Juvenile prostitution
- Soliciting prostitution services in public places.
- Carrying out prostitution activities in hotels.
- Indulging in prostitution by arranging for a sex worker.
- Arrangement of a sexual act with a customer.
In the present case, a sex worker was brutal murder by Budhadev Karmaskar the
incident happened on 17th September 1999, The deceased Chayay Rani Pal alias
Buri was living in a red light area and was a resident of Jogen Dutta Lane in
Calcutta. She was a sex worker.
The appellant Budhadev kicked her with fists and
legs, and she fell to the floor Then appellant caught her by her hair and banged
her head against the floor and the wall several times which left the victim
severely injured, the was profusely bleeding through her nose and mouth the
victim was taken The victim was brought to the hospital where she was found
'dead on arrival.
The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices of L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai, and
AS Bopanna dismissed the appeal and observed that the right to life under
Article 21 includes basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex
workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to
their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right
to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children. So
court direct the Central and State Governments to prepare schemes for giving
technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all
cities in India.
The Apex Court had constituted a Panel for sex workers in 2011. They were
broadly three aspects that the Panel had identified:
The terms of reference made to the panel are:
- Prevention of trafficking,
- Rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work, and
- Conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex
workers with dignity.
Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all
facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault.
Sex workers are entitled to equal protection from the law. Criminal law must
apply equally in all cases, based on '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 directed that the media should not publish the picture or the identity
while reporting the rescue operation or raid
Whenever there is a raid on any brothel, since voluntary sex work is not illegal
and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not
be arrested or penalized or harassed, or victimized.
The law enforcement agencies should be sensitized to the rights of sex workers
who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the
Constitution to all citizens.
Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should abuse them both
verbally and physically.
The central and state government through legal service authorities should
conduct a workshop to educate sex workers about their rights.
no child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother merely on the
ground that she is in the sex trade. Further, if a minor is found living in a
brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that he/she has been
trafficked. 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.
Measures that sex workers employ for their health and safety should neither as
offense nor evidence.
The Central Government and the State Governments must involve the sex workers
and/or their representatives in all decision-making processes, including
planning, designing, and implementing any policy or program for the sex workers
or formulating any change/reform in the laws relating to sex work.
The State Governments may be directed to survey all ITPA Protective Homes so
that cases of adult women, who are detained against their will can be reviewed
and processed for release in a time-bound manner.
the court also directed that Aadhar Cards shall be issued to sex workers based
on a proforma certificate which is issued by UIDAI and submitted by the Gazetted
Officer at NACO or the Project Director of the State Aids Control Society, along
with the Aadhar enrolment form/application.
The court directed these orders under article 142 of the Indian constitution
which provides a unique power to the supreme court to do complete justice
between the parties, court can use this power where at times law or statute may
not provide a remedy, the Court can extend itself to put a quietus to a dispute
in a manner which would befit the facts of the case.
Sex work or prostitution is not new in India its an old profession and with
changing society Stigma and discrimination against sex workers have broad
negative implications, including creating an environment conducive to social
exclusion, violence, and HIV/STIs. Labeling sex workers as criminals due
to these kinds of a stigma Sex worker in India face many problems in day to day
like physical abuse, sexual violence, health issues, exploitation, and police
harassment. The present order of the apex court significantly helps the sex
workers to lead a better life in society and it also ensures that all are equal
under the law.
- Aarthi Pai, Status of sex workers in
- Niranjan Saggurti, et al. "Harsh realities: Reasons for women's
involvement in sex work in India", Journal of AIDS and HIV Research, Vol.
- Sohini Chowdhury, Police Should Not Abuse Sex Workers, Media Should Not
Publish Their Pictures During Raid & Rescue Operations : Supreme Court
Issues Directions https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-guidelines-sex-workers-article-21-rehabilitation-prevention-of-trafficking-200041.
Explained: The Supreme Court Order On Sex Work, How It Changes Things, And
Laws On Sex Work, https://www.outlookindia.com/national/explained-the-supreme-court-order-on-sex-workers-laws-on-prostitution-how-sc-order-changes-things-news-198865