New Delhi: The recent Supreme Court directives on guaranteeing sex workers dignity and constitutional freedoms still leaves some critical problem areas unaddressed and these can only be resolved when the profession is decriminalised, say activists and sex workers’ networks. Apart from the right to unionise, these gaps relate to the criminalisation of many activities relating to sex work under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA) – pimping, soliciting, maintaining and running a brothel, they said.
Although voluntary sex work has never been illegal under Indian law, various associated activities essential for sex work are criminal offences under the ITPA. Also, owing to the social stigma associated with the profession, sex workers routinely face harrassment at the hands of both the police and the clients with no recourse to the criminal justice system hitherto.
However, the directives are a significant step, sex workers groups agree. By exercising its power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, the court issued a series of directives to safeguard sex workers’ right to live and work with dignity.