The Supreme Court issued an important judgement directing police officers not to interfere with or punish consensual sex workers. It stated that prostitution is a profession and that sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal legal protection.
Six directions 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 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 gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has the right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution,’ the Court stated.
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 child of a sex worker should not be separated from her mother only because she works in the sex trade. The court noted that ‘Basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children.’