Sex Work is now legal in India, Supreme Court upheld the rights of Sex workers

The Supreme Court issued an important judgement instructing police officers not to interfere with or prosecute consensual sex workers. It stated that prostitution is a profession and that sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal legal protection.

Six instructions were issued by a three-judge bench led by Justice L Nageswara Rao to protect the rights of sex workers. “Sex workers are entitled to equal protection under the law,” the Court stated. On the basis of age and consent, criminal law must apply equally in all circumstances. The authorities must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action when it is evident that the sex worker is an adult who is participating with consent.

It goes without saying that, regardless of occupation, everyone in this country has the right to a dignified existence guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.”

The court also ruled that in raids on brothels, sex workers should not be jailed, penalised, harassed, or victimised because voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is.

The court ruled that a kid of a sex worker should not be separated from her mother only because she works in the sex trade. The court stated that “basic protection of human decency and dignity extended to sex workers and their children.”

The court also instructed the police not to discriminate against sex workers who file a complaint, particularly if the offence is sexual in nature. Sex workers who are sexual assault victims should be given every convenience, including rapid medical and legal assistance.

“It has been noted that police attitudes toward sex workers are frequently aggressive and violent. “It’s as if they’re a class whose rights aren’t acknowledged,” the court added, urging public awareness.

The court stated that the media should take “extreme care not to divulge the identities of sex workers, whether as victims or accused, during arrest, raid, and rescue operations, and not print or telecast any images that may result in disclosure of their identities.”

The bench further stated that the use of condoms by sex workers should not be taken by the police as evidence of sex worker misconduct. The court also recommended that sex workers who are apprehended and brought before a magistrate be sentenced to two to three years in a penitentiary facility.

“At the meantime, the sex workers could be held in these residences,” the order stated, “and if the magistrate determines that the sex worker agrees, they could be released.”

Justice Rao was adamant that the authorities could not force sex workers to stay in correctional facilities or shelters against their will.

The court has requested the Centre to respond to these proposals on the next hearing date, which is set for July.