The Centre has expressed reservations at a Supreme Court panel’s recommendations that sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised because voluntary sex work is “not criminal” and only maintaining a brothel is illegal, according to reports.
After consulting with all stakeholders, the Panel, which was tasked with making recommendations on issues relating to human trafficking prevention, rehabilitation of sex workers who want to leave the industry, and conditions conducive to sex workers living with dignity in accordance with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, had submitted a detailed report on the issue, Live Law said in its report.
“Whenever there is a raid on any brothel since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised,” the panel said.
The panel said the basic protection of human decency and dignity extended to sex workers and their children, “who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children”.
“It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this the country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” it said.
However, Additional Solicitor General Jayant Sud stated that the Government of India had certain reservations about the panel’s recommendations on the issue ‘that voluntary sex work is not illegal and that only running a brothel is prohibited, with no action taken against sex workers’.
The Centre has been given six weeks to react to the Panel’s additional recommendations, which were made by Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai, and A.S. Bopanna.
Some of its recommendations were accepted by the Central Government, and the Apex Court has now ordered states to implement them. It had, however, objected to the following recommendations, according to the report.
The first among these that 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 said.
There have been worries that sex workers are treated differently by the police than other people. When a sex worker files a criminal/sexual/other type of offence report, the police must take it seriously and follow the law, the recommendation said.
Since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only maintaining a brothel is, the sex workers involved should not be detained, penalised, harassed, or victimised if a brothel is raided, was the third recommendation the panel made that the Centre objected to.
All decision-making procedures involving sex workers and/or their representatives, including planning, devising, and implementing any policy or programme for sex workers, or formulating any change/reform in the laws relating to sex work, must include sex workers and/or their representatives. This can be accomplished by involving them in decision-making authorities/panels and/or soliciting their input on any issue that affects them, it said.
No child of a sex worker should be separated from her mother just because she works in the sex trade, as suggested in the 6th interim Report dated 22.03.2012. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that a youngster living in a brothel or with sex workers has been trafficked. If the sex worker claims to be her son or daughter, testing can be done to see if the allegation is true, and if it is, the youngster should not be removed forcibly.