Sex workers fall amongst the most vulnerable groups – they are victims of violence and sexual abuse.
The gravity of the problem is when the crime is reported rather than being seen as a prey they are seen as predator themselves.
A research study by World Health Organisation reported that 70% of sex workers in India were beaten by the police and more than 80% were arrested without evidence and violence is perpetuated by the prejudice that is linked to the perception that sex workers are criminals.
If you look closely this is systemic mental abuse. They are arrested under alleged ‘public nuisance’ and ‘obscene conduct’.
But, the cries of sex workers are falling on deaf ears. Let’s understand the issue more closely. Women engaged in the profession are illegaly trafficked, sold by their own parents for money, and most times engaged out of compulsion owing to economic hardships and once they become a part of this profession they’re not welcomed back by the family leaving them stuck in these compact prisons.
But, recently India's Supreme Court recognised prostitution as a profession and emphasising that sex workers, like any other professionals, are entitled to dignity and constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court did this in accordance with Article 142, which states that the Supreme Court has discretionary power in exercising its jurisdiction in order to provide complete justice.
Major Supreme Court Guidelines
Equal protection of laws.
No police harassment or criminal action against sex workers.
Child of a sex worker not to be separated from her.
Media not to reveal identity while recording rescue operations.
UIDAI to provide Aadhar cards to sex workers even if they are unable to furnish residence proof.
Challenges Faced by sex workers
Sexual violence and assault
Bad living conditions
Sexually transmitted diseases due to lack of proper education
Discrimination or social stigma
Laws around prostitution in India
According to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prostitution is not illegal in India, per se ,however sexual activities under prostitution are punishable by law.
Under the 1956 Immoral Traffic (Prevention)Act, pimping and running a brothel is criminal, but voluntary sex employment or prostitution is not.
The way forward to the situation is of course change in outlook of the society. The government must recognise the sex workers. Some experts argue that if sex workers are brought in mainstream then it would lead to justification of trade in body and would encourage trafficking; but the question is, Is this denial an escape?
The plight and the distress of sex workers cannot be ignored. Each human has a right to live a life of dignity.
These sex workers have children to raise and stomachs to fill. This must be respected and taken care of. The government should map out a policy to define rules for and rights of these sex worker.
There are currently an estimated 3 million sex workers in India, the vast majority of whom are between the ages of 15 and 35.
We know that survival is the top priority in a country like India, which is plagued by poverty, destitution, hunger, and inequalities. As a democratic nation, India's constitution guarantees justice, equality, and liberty to all segments of society. Unfortunately, sex workers have been structurally excluded from the parameters of "equal opportunities." It is past time to put an end to such blatant disregard for human rights and dignity.