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Centre has Reservation At SC Panel Recommendation for Sex Workers to Live With Dignity

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Supreme Court Law Insider

Shivani Thakur

Published on: May 26, 2022 at 20:15 IST

While issuing directions to the State Governments and Union Territories to strictly comply with some of the recommendations of its Panel for Sex Workers with respect to conditions conducive to sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Bench directed the Union Government to respond to the other recommendations made by the Panel within a period of six weeks, on the next date of hearing.

The Central Government had accepted some of its recommendations and raised objections to the following.

  1. 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.
  2. Whenever there is a raid on any brothel, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalized or harassed or victimized.
  3. 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 programme for the sex workers or formulating any change/reform in the laws relating to sex work.
  4. No child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade.

While quashing and setting aside an order of the Metropolitan Magistrate, whereby custody of three sex workers to their families were declined and they were sent to a corrective institution, the Bombay High Court noted:

There is no provision under the law which makes prostitution per se a criminal offence or punishes a person because he indulges in prostitution.”

“What is punishable under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act is sexual exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purpose and to earn the bread thereby, except where a person is carrying on prostitution in a public place as provided in Section 7 or when a person is found soliciting or seducing another person in view of Section 8 of the said Act, 1956.”

The Calcutta High Court had reiterated that no sex workers exploited for commercial sex shall be arrayed as an accused in the course of investigation under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 until and unless there is material to suggest her involvement as a co-conspirator.