A Supreme Court Panel set up in 2011 has reportedly recommended that the Police must not interfere or take criminal action against adult sex workers “participating with consent”. “Whenever there is a raid on a brothel, since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers should not be arrested or penalized or harassed or victimized,” the panel says.
The Panel has suggested deletion of the offence of “soliciting” under section 8 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, which makes soliciting or seducing for the purpose of prostitution punishable with six months in jail and a fine of Rs 500. The Panel was of the opinion that the provision was being misused by enforcement agencies.
It suggests another amendment to section 4 of the ITPA, which prescribes a punishment of 10 years for any person above 18 living on the earnings of prostitution. Instead of sending them to jail for 5 years, it suggests that they be sent to correctional homes for a year.
The Panel, headed by Senior Advocate Pradip Ghosh, had been set up for gauging the measures to ensure better working conditions for prostitutes and protection of their rights. The Panel is also supposed to suggest measures for rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave the profession, as well as suggest provisions for alternate livelihood to prevent re-trafficking.
Suggesting the setting up of the panel in 2011, the Bench comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra had observed, “It is only if a sex worker is able to earn a livelihood through technical skills rather than by selling her body that she can live with dignity.”
Scheduled to submit its report in March, the Panel observed that sex workers are viewed “differently from others” by the Police. “When a sex worker makes a complaint of criminal/ sexual/ any other type of offence, police must take it seriously and act in accordance with law,” it recommends.
It further suggests that no action be taken against a sex worker’s parent, partner or children living on her earnings, unless it is proved that they forced her into the trade.
image from here.