Sex work legal
Representational image

New Delhi: In a significant order, the Supreme Court of India told the police that they should not interfere or take any criminal action against “consenting sex workers”. 

The apex court said that prostitution is a profession and sex workers are equally entitled to dignity and protection under the law.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao has issued six directions for safeguarding the rights of sex workers. 

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The Bench said, “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.”

It added, “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 gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

The bench further ordered the police that sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised in raids on brothels.

The bench said that this is because voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful.

The court further said that children of sex workers 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.

The court also stated that even if a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that the child was trafficked.

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The court ordered that no discrimination should be there by the police against sex workers who lodge a complaint, especially if the offence committed against them is of sexual nature. 

“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 recognised,” the court said.

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