This question has been raised several times in past as well. The women in our society have always been struggling to make their position in the male dominated world of. In this patriarchy, her status is diminished and lost in the hues of darkness. The constitution provides equality for all but sadly it is denied to women on various grounds. As a society we are progressing but there still exists stereotypes which drags us centuries back. One of such notion is “prostitution”. The term prostitution in India denotes a woman selling her body for petty income. It is sad to hear that a country which worships women as goddess, calls her by various derogatory names and give false remarks. This drives a very negative energy and demoralises a female to a great extent.
The first and foremost thing that needs to stop is calling sex workers by different names. They should not be denied of their basic human rights to live life with dignity and should be accepted by the community without any bias on the grounds of their profession.
Right to choose vocation
The Article-19(1) (g) of the constitution provides Right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business to all citizens subject to certain restrictions. There have been instances where such right is denied to a woman. One such example is ‘prostitution’, which is neither legal nor illegal in our country despite being a number of women pursuing this as their profession. The Immoral Traffic (prevention) Act, 1986 was constituted to prevent immoral trafficking in humans. The law forbids a sex worker to carry on her activities within 200 yards of a public place so that nothing is done in a place where the normal public dwells. But the disheartening fact is that the rights of such sex workers are not recognised like other workers under labour laws.
Due to lack of recognition they are prone to injustice and are often shunned. The legalisation will help them get better representation in the society and bring on a better footing to fight for their rights. It will help to curb the malpractice of illegal prostitution.
In the light of it, a recent judgement has been passed by Bombay High Court releasing three women sex workers from corrective institutions. It has been held that prostitution is not an offence and women has right to choose her vocation.
The brief facts of the case are that a trap was laid to catch women traffickers on secret information received by an informant that a pimp named Nijamuddin Khan provides women for prostitution at a guest house in Malad. The victims were found at the guest house and were taken into custody. All the three victims were produced before the Metropolitan Magistrate who declined the custody of victims to their mothers on the grounds that they are not safe with their parents as they belonged to a community name ‘Bediya” wherein a custom prevails that after a girl attains puberty, she is sent for prostitution.
The said order was appealed in the court of Sessions Judge by way of an appeal which was dismissed by the learned Additional Session Judge confirming the order of the learned Magistrate.
The Bombay High Court had a different approach in deciding the case and held that the three women should be released from the custody in corrective homes. It was further said by the court that-
“It seems that the learned Magistrate has been swayed away while passing the impugned order by the fact that the petitioners belong to a particular caste. It is equally important to note that the petitioner victims are major and, therefore, have a right to reside at the place of their choice, to move freely throughout the territory of India and to choose their own vocation as enshrined in Part III of fundamental rights of the Constitution of India. The learned Magistrate, before passing the impugned order ought to have considered the willingness and consent of the victims before ordering their detention in the protective home. The orders impugned dated 19.10.2019 by the Metropolitan Magistrate, Mazgaon and the order dated 22.11.2019 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Dindoshi therefore, need to be quashed as the same are bad in law.”
Also, in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar V. The State of West Bengal & Ors., directed Centre and State government to provide food and financial aid to sex workers. The State Governments are directed regarding the modalities for distribution of monthly dry rations and cash transfer to the sex workers without insisting on proof of identity.
It is evident from the above discussion that sex workers in our country are in bad shape. There is an immediate need to bring laws to ensure that they are given equal rights and opportunities. Also, legalisation will help solve various others associated issues. They will be empowered, shunning the callous behaviour of the government and the bureaucracy. It will ensure better health facilities to sex workers ensuring that STDs are not being transmitted. Also, there is lack of social welfare schemes for them to sustain in hard times. Due to the pandemic situation in the country many of them lacked three meals a day. Due to unacceptability in the society they are deprived of other means of livelihood.
In the western countries sex workers are given equal respect and dignity in the society but dejected in India. A country which in a numerous way influenced from the western culture and practices should take steps to regulate the existing profession in the society. Rather than trying to eliminate it on the notion of stereotype and Indian culture, we as a society should try to regulate it and build a safe platform for sex workers to come forward and raise their concerns like other societal members. Its high time to put an end to such inhumane behaviour and start accepting sex workers by giving them equal respect and status in the society that they deserve.