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Police should treat sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them: SC

The Court also directed the Press Council of India to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care of not revealing identity of sex workers during raid or rescue operations

Sabrangindia 31 May 2022

Supreme Court
Image Courtesy:english.mathrubhumi.com

SabrangIndia had reported previously that the Supreme Court had, in a case pertaining to rights of sex workers, directed the UIDAI to provide them with Aadhaar cards without requiring address proof, and maintaining confidentiality of their data. A closer reading of the order now brings to light directions given to the police to treat sex workers with respect and compassion.

Supreme Court Bench presided by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice A.S. Bopanna was hearing the matter pertaining to the right of sex workers to live with dignity and held, “This basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children.”

The Bench directed the Police Officers to treat the sex workers with dignity and had mentioned in the Order dated May 19, 2022: 

"The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity."

The Bench further made directions regarding any sex worker being the victim of sexual assault saying, “Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).”

The Bench also directed the Press Council of India regarding no disclosure of identities of sex workers, “The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest/ raid/ rescue operations, whether as victims/accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities. Besides, 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.”

The Order was based on the recommendations made by panel constituted by the Court in 2011 to examine the conditions of sex workers and to ensure that they can live with dignity.

On May 19, the Court made it crystal clear in its order that the following recommendations, to which the centre agreed, should be strictly followed by all States and Union Territories:

  • Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).

  • The State Governments may be directed to do a survey of all ITPA Protective 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.

  • It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised. The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity.

  • The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities. Besides, 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.

  • Measures that sex workers employ for their health and safety (e.g., use of condoms, 12 etc.) must neither be construed as offences nor seen as evidence of commission of an offence.

  • 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 vis-a-vis the legality of sex work, rights and obligations of the police and what is permitted/prohibited under the law. Sex workers can also be informed as to how they can get access to the judicial system to enforce their rights and prevent unnecessary harassment at the hands of traffickers or police.

The Court also said about these recommendations, “As the legislation has not been made till date even though the recommendations were made by the Panel in the year 2016 and the said recommendations have to be implemented, we are exercising our powers conferred under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, to issue the following directions which will hold the field till a legislation is made by the Union of India.”

The Court has observed during the trial, “….basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children.”

The Court held on its above observation, “It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Constitutional protection that is given to all individuals in this country shall be kept in mind by the authorities who have a duty under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.”

The Court stated in its Order stated that the other recommendations which have to be considered by the Union of India will be taken up after the summer break and granted six weeks time to the Union of India to file its response to the recommendations made by the panel and kept the matter for next hearing on July 27, 2022.

The recommendations made by the panel are as follows:

1)     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. There have been concerns that police view sex workers differently from others. When a sex worker makes a complaint of criminal/sexual/any other type of offence, the police must take it seriously and act in accordance with law.

2)     Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).

3)     Whenever there is a raid on any brothel, since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised.

4)     The State Governments may be directed to do a survey of all ITPA Protective 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.

5)     It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised. The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coe4rce them into any sexual activity.

6)     The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities. Besides, 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.

7)     Measures that sex workers employ for their health and safety (e.g., use of condoms, etc.) must neither be construed as offences nor seen as evidence of commission of an offence.

8)     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. This can be done, either by including them in the decision-making authorities/panel and/or by taking their views on any decision affecting them.

9)     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 abut their rights vis-a-vis the legality of sex work, rights and obligations of the police and what is permitted/prohibited under the law. Sex workers can also be informed as to how they can get access to the judicial system to enforce their rights and prevent unnecessary harassment at the hands of traffickers or police.

10)  As already recommended in the 6th interim Report dated 22.03.2012, no child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade. Further, if a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that he/she has been trafficked. In case the sex worker claims that he/she is her son/daughter, tests can be done to determine if the claim is correct and if so, the minor should not be forcibly separated.

The Court in its Order had asked the UIDAI to maintain the confidentiality of the sex workers during the process of issuance of the Aadhar Cards and reportedly said, “There shall be no breach of confidentiality in the process, including assignment of any code in the Aadhar enrolment numbers that identify the card holder as a sex worker.”

The entire Order may be read here:

Related:

SC directs Aadhaar cards be issued to sex workers without insisting on the residential proof
Sex workers can’t be harassed, can’t be confined to shelter homes: SC
Courts upholds dignity of sex-workers in two important orders
Human Trafficking Bill and the government’s Saviour Complex
Covid-19: Gauhati HC directs DLSA to provide immediate ration to sex workers, their family

Police should treat sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them: SC

The Court also directed the Press Council of India to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care of not revealing identity of sex workers during raid or rescue operations

Supreme Court
Image Courtesy:english.mathrubhumi.com

SabrangIndia had reported previously that the Supreme Court had, in a case pertaining to rights of sex workers, directed the UIDAI to provide them with Aadhaar cards without requiring address proof, and maintaining confidentiality of their data. A closer reading of the order now brings to light directions given to the police to treat sex workers with respect and compassion.

Supreme Court Bench presided by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice A.S. Bopanna was hearing the matter pertaining to the right of sex workers to live with dignity and held, “This basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children.”

The Bench directed the Police Officers to treat the sex workers with dignity and had mentioned in the Order dated May 19, 2022: 

"The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity."

The Bench further made directions regarding any sex worker being the victim of sexual assault saying, “Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).”

The Bench also directed the Press Council of India regarding no disclosure of identities of sex workers, “The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest/ raid/ rescue operations, whether as victims/accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities. Besides, 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.”

The Order was based on the recommendations made by panel constituted by the Court in 2011 to examine the conditions of sex workers and to ensure that they can live with dignity.

On May 19, the Court made it crystal clear in its order that the following recommendations, to which the centre agreed, should be strictly followed by all States and Union Territories:

  • Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).

  • The State Governments may be directed to do a survey of all ITPA Protective 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.

  • It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised. The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity.

  • The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities. Besides, 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.

  • Measures that sex workers employ for their health and safety (e.g., use of condoms, 12 etc.) must neither be construed as offences nor seen as evidence of commission of an offence.

  • 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 vis-a-vis the legality of sex work, rights and obligations of the police and what is permitted/prohibited under the law. Sex workers can also be informed as to how they can get access to the judicial system to enforce their rights and prevent unnecessary harassment at the hands of traffickers or police.

The Court also said about these recommendations, “As the legislation has not been made till date even though the recommendations were made by the Panel in the year 2016 and the said recommendations have to be implemented, we are exercising our powers conferred under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, to issue the following directions which will hold the field till a legislation is made by the Union of India.”

The Court has observed during the trial, “….basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children, who, bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work, are removed to the fringes of the society, deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children.”

The Court held on its above observation, “It need not be gainsaid that notwithstanding the profession, every individual in this country has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Constitutional protection that is given to all individuals in this country shall be kept in mind by the authorities who have a duty under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.”

The Court stated in its Order stated that the other recommendations which have to be considered by the Union of India will be taken up after the summer break and granted six weeks time to the Union of India to file its response to the recommendations made by the panel and kept the matter for next hearing on July 27, 2022.

The recommendations made by the panel are as follows:

1)     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. There have been concerns that police view sex workers differently from others. When a sex worker makes a complaint of criminal/sexual/any other type of offence, the police must take it seriously and act in accordance with law.

2)     Any sex worker who is a victim of sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to a survivor of sexual assault, including immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 read with “Guidelines and Protocols: Medico-legal care for survivor/victims of sexual violence”, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (March, 2014).

3)     Whenever there is a raid on any brothel, since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised.

4)     The State Governments may be directed to do a survey of all ITPA Protective 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.

5)     It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent. It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised. The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitised to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, both verbally and physically, subject them to violence or coe4rce them into any sexual activity.

6)     The Press Council of India should be urged to issue appropriate guidelines for the media to take utmost care not to reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not to publish or telecast any photos that would result in disclosure of such identities. Besides, 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.

7)     Measures that sex workers employ for their health and safety (e.g., use of condoms, etc.) must neither be construed as offences nor seen as evidence of commission of an offence.

8)     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. This can be done, either by including them in the decision-making authorities/panel and/or by taking their views on any decision affecting them.

9)     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 abut their rights vis-a-vis the legality of sex work, rights and obligations of the police and what is permitted/prohibited under the law. Sex workers can also be informed as to how they can get access to the judicial system to enforce their rights and prevent unnecessary harassment at the hands of traffickers or police.

10)  As already recommended in the 6th interim Report dated 22.03.2012, no child of a sex worker should be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade. Further, if a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that he/she has been trafficked. In case the sex worker claims that he/she is her son/daughter, tests can be done to determine if the claim is correct and if so, the minor should not be forcibly separated.

The Court in its Order had asked the UIDAI to maintain the confidentiality of the sex workers during the process of issuance of the Aadhar Cards and reportedly said, “There shall be no breach of confidentiality in the process, including assignment of any code in the Aadhar enrolment numbers that identify the card holder as a sex worker.”

The entire Order may be read here:

Related:

SC directs Aadhaar cards be issued to sex workers without insisting on the residential proof
Sex workers can’t be harassed, can’t be confined to shelter homes: SC
Courts upholds dignity of sex-workers in two important orders
Human Trafficking Bill and the government’s Saviour Complex
Covid-19: Gauhati HC directs DLSA to provide immediate ration to sex workers, their family

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