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Recognition of Sex Work as a Profession


Recently, in a significant order, Supreme Court has recognised sex work as a “profession” and observed that its practitioners are entitled to dignity and equal protection under law.


GS II- Social Justice

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Highlights of the Supreme Court Judgment
  3. Challenges faced by Sex worker


  • The court invoked its special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution. 
    • Article 142 provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court as it states that the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
  • In 2020, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recognised sex workers as informal workers.

Highlights of the Supreme Court Judgment

Equal Protection under law:

  • 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
  • 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.

Child of a Sex Worker:

  • The child of a sex worker should not be separated from the mother merely on the ground that she is in the sex trade
  • Basic protection of human decency and dignity extends to sex workers and their children


  • Further, if a minor is found living in a brothel or with sex workers, it should not be presumed that the child was trafficked.

Discrimination by the police:

  • 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 court also ordered the police to not discriminate against sex workers who lodge a complaint, especially if the offence committed against them is of sexual nature.
  • Sex workers who are victims of sexual assault should be provided with every facility, including immediate medico-legal care.

Media’s Role:

  • Utmost care to not reveal the identities of sex workers, during arrest, raid and rescue operations, whether as victims or accused and not publish or telecast any photo that would result in disclosure of such identities

Protection against forceful sex work

  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986 is an amendment of the original act.
  • As per this act, prostitutes are to be arrested if they are found soliciting their services or seducing others.
  • Furthermore, call girls are prohibited from making their phone numbers public.
  • They can be punished for up to 6 months along with penalties if found doing so.

Challenges faced by Sex worker

  • Sex workers have no rights, and people who conduct such job face prejudice because of their criminal status.
  • These people are despised and have no place in society, and their landlords and even the law frequently punish them cruelly.
  • Their quest for equal human, health, and labour rights continues because they are not considered to be in the same category as other workers.
  • Sex workers are frequently subjected to a variety of abuses, ranging from physical to mental assaults.
  • Clients, their own family members, the neighbourhood, and even people who are sworn to defend the law would harass them.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023