On May 26th, The supreme court issued a landmark judgement ruling that sex work is a profession, and it is entitled to equal protection under the law. Also instructed police to not take criminal action or harass sex workers when they raid a brothel, as voluntary sex work is not illegal, although opening a brothel is. The apex court also instructed police that they shouldn’t discriminate towards the sex workers but rather behave sensitively with them and utmost care should be given in not revealing their identity during arrest or rescue operations in both cases where they are the victim or the accused.
The three-judge bench under Justice L Nageswara Rao said while giving directions for protecting the rights and dignity of sex workers, “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. It need not be said that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution.”
A sex worker’s child should not be deprived of her mother’s care “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 instructed the police. “It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognized,” the court added. This was not the only time the supreme court or any court sided with sex workers. There have been several incidents in the past where court orders came in favour of the sex workers ensuring the protection of their dignity.
The court protecting sex workers and society accepting them are two totally different things. Even if the law is saying that sex workers should get every inch of dignity that people of any other profession get, our so-called value-based society won’t let them be. The same society which cannot protect a woman who is alone in the streets is blaming women who choose to do sex work to protect themselves. Most of the women who choose to do sex work don’t have another choice. They were born into the sidewalks of society which is going fast forward without even looking at them, which is not most definitely their fault. The Supreme court has to come forward to make sure the rightful protection under the law is given to them because even after making it absolutely clear that sex work with consent and age is not illegal, and they should be treated equally, sex workers are being cornered in every aspect of society.
Even police are hesitant to take the rape cases filed by sex workers seriously. The violence and abuse faced by them are taken as something that they deserve for taking up that job. Sometimes they are even denied medical care. There is a high chance of sexual harassment being involved in a profession with no one favouring them. They are more prone to abuse because society makes them taboo. From the point of view of law and on a humanitarian basis, no one born into this world deserves abuse. The court stressing their protection and making people aware of the crises faced by this community can be seen as going forward even though it is a tough and long journey the plight of this community is going to improve in the future generations.