Supreme Court of India has recognised prostitution as a profession and order the police to treat them respectful. Sex workers who are victims of sexual assault will now get every facility including immediate medico-legal care, the apex court has said states and union territories must ensure compliance with its order.
We are aware that Sex workers face a number of health and human rights challenges including increased risk for HIV infection and sub-optimal care and treatment outcomes, institutional and interpersonal violence, labor rights violations and financial insecurity.
The rights of sex workers are non-existent, and those who do so face discrimination because of their criminal status. These individuals are looked down upon and have no place in the society, and are most of the time treated harshly by their landlords and even by the law. Their fight for being given human, health and labor rights at par with others continues as they are not treated in the same category as other workers.
During COVID-19 pandemic, sex workers were the most affected as without clients they had no money, and their efforts to look for another job were thwarted, as most won’t hire them.
While issuing directions to the State Governments and Union Territories, Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai, and AS Bopanna said “It’s not their fault, they were in a situation to take this decision, police should also treat all sex workers with dignity and should not abuse them, whether it is verbally or physically, subject them to violence or coerce them into any sexual activity.”.
In several reports, police behavior towards the sex workers is shameful to describe. Observing the police’s “brutal and violent” attitude towards sex workers, the bench emphasised they are entitled to all the basic human and constitutional rights.
Even the bench clearly that sex workers are sexually assaulted, they should also get all the facilities available for their survivor which includes immediate medical assistance, in accordance with Section 357C (treatment of victims) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Meanwhile, Press Council of India has been informed not to publish or telecast any photos that would reveal their the identities of sexually assaulted person. However if the identity and photographs, published or telecasting from raid or rescue operations will be a criminal offence.
In the newly introduced Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which makes voyeurism a criminal offence, which includes maximum punishment of three years imprisonment for a first-time offence and up to seven years for a subsequent offence.