June 27, 2022
India top court recognizes sex work as ‘profession’

India top court recognizes sex work as ‘profession’

The Indian apex court has ruled that law enforcement agencies should neither interfere nor take criminal action against adult and consenting sex workers.

In an order recognizing sex work as a “profession”, whose practitioners are entitled to dignity and equal protection under law, the Supreme Court has directed that the police should not interfere or take action against sex workers, The Hindu reported on Wednesday.

“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.

“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,” said a three-judge bench, led by Justice L Nageswara Rao, in an order passed after invoking special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

The Supreme Court bench ordered that sex workers should not be “arrested or penalized or harassed or victimized” whenever there is a raid on any brothel, “since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful”.

The court held that a child of a sex worker should not be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade.

“Basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children,” the court noted.

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If a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that the child was 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,” the court-ordered.