Supreme Court recognizes sex work as a ?profession?

Supreme Court recognizes sex work as a ‘profession’

News: In a momentous order, the Supreme Court of India recognised sex work to be a ‘profession.’ The apex court was hearing a plea that has raised the problems faced by sex workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plea has highlighted the destitution faced by sex workers on account of COVID-19 and sought relief measures for over nine lakh women and transgender sex workers across India.

What are the guidelines issues by Supreme Court?
• Police forces in all states and Union territories should treat sex workers with dignity and not to abuse them, verbally or physically.
• The authorities have a duty to protect them under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.
• The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers.
• The newly introduced Section 354C, IPC which makes voyeurism a criminal offence, should be strictly enforced against electronic media, in order to prohibit telecasting photos of sex workers with their clients in the garb of capturing the rescue operation.
• State governments should do a survey of shelter homes so that cases of adult women who are detained against their will can be reviewed and processed for release in a time-bound manner.
• The Central Government and the State Governments, through National Legal Services Authority, State Legal Services Authority and District Legal Services Authority, should carry out workshops for educating the sex workers about their rights.

What are the challenges?
• Sex workers are exposed to a slew of abuses that range from physical to mental attacks.
• Most of them do not have access to clean and safe housing, as they are refused outrightly by owners or the society.
• Access to essential health services are limited.

Important Supreme Court Judgements:
• In Manoj Shaw vs State of West Bengal (2003), the Calcutta High Court observed that Sex workers should be treated as victims of crime rather than the accused.
• In Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal (2011), the High Court observed that sex workers are also entitled to live a dignified life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
• In Kajal Mukesh Singh vs State of Maharashtra (2021), The Bombay High Court said ‘Prostitution is not an offence, a woman has a right to choose her vocation’. 

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