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No criminal action against voluntary sex workers, SC rules

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

The Supreme Court in a significant order told the police that they should neither interfere nor rake criminal action against consenting sex workers.  

The top court on Wednesday ruled out that prostitution is a profession and sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection under the law.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao issued six directions for safeguarding 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,” said the bench.

The bench also ordered that sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised in raids on brothels since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful.

The Central Government and the State Governments must involve the sex workers and/or their representatives in all decision-making processes, including planning, designing, and implementing any policy or programme for the sex workers or formulating any change/reform in the laws relating to sex work.

The Court has also asked the Centre to give its response to these recommendations on the next date of hearing, July 27.

First Published: 26th May, 2022 18:24 IST

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