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Supreme Court legalises prostitution, says every individual has right to dignified life

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The Supreme Court on Thursday recognised sex trade as a profession, stating that basic protection of human decency and dignity was extended to each citizen of the country, including the sex workers and their children.

A three-Judge Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao invoked the special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and ordered police to abstain from either interfering, or taking criminal action against adult and consenting sex workers.

As per the Apex Court, “Notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

As per the Bench, sex workers were entitled to equal protection of law. Criminal law must apply equally in all cases, on the basis of age and consent, it added.

The Court observed that police must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action against an adult sex worker, who was participating with consent.

Speaking about raids, the Court directed that sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed or victimised during a raid on a brothel.

“Voluntary sex work is not illegal, but running a brothel is unlawful,” noted the Apex Court.

It directed that a child of a sex worker should not be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she was in sex trade.

In case a minor was found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that the child was trafficked, said the court, adding that claims regarding maternal lineage of the children could be ascertained by conducting tests.

The Bench directed the Police to abstain from discriminating against sex workers, who lodge a criminal complaint, especially if the offence committed against them was of sexual nature.

Sex workers, who became victims of sexual assault, should be provided every facility, including immediate medico-legal care, noted the Court, adding that police should be sensitised regarding their behaviour with sex workers.

The Bench advised the mediapersons too regarding cases related to sex workers, telling them to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers and also not publish their photographs during arrest, raid or rescue operations, so as to hide their identity.

The Apex Court also directed the police not to construe the measures taken by sex workers, like the use of condom, as evidence of their ‘offence’.

It called for both the Central and the state governments to involve sex workers or their representatives to reform laws.

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