'Sex Work Not Illegal If Voluntary, Running Brothel Is': Indian Court’s Recommendation Sparks Debate
A panel of judges at India’s apex court issued recommendations that identified prostitution as a profession in the country and issued guidelines on the rights of sex workers, living a life with dignity and equal protection under the law.
India's federal government and several social activists have raised objections to the Supreme Court panel’s recommendations, which say that sex work - if voluntary - is not illegal, only running a brothel is.
Therefore, sex workers should not be arrested, penalised, harassed, or victimised.
"Whenever there is a raid on any brothel since voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running the brothel is unlawful, the sex workers concerned should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised", the panel said in one of its guidelines.
While the apex court has now ordered states to implement them, the central government and activists have objected to a few of the recommendations.
Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, and chairwoman of Women Power Connect, tells Sputnik that calling sex work a profession is wrong and no one takes it up by choice.
"Firstly, I'm against legalising prostitution in India as it will increase human trafficking and exploitation of women. And giving it a name of a profession is wrong as it is not something one gets into voluntarily", Kumari told Sputnik.
"Women are forced into prostitution, it is imposed on them at a very young age due to the social condition they live in and more. It's not a profession one would like to take up voluntarily. Hence, it will be wrong to say that sex work is done voluntarily is not illegal", Kumari says.
Anti-trafficking advocate Pallabi Ghosh, founder of the Impact and Dialogue Foundation, opines the same, adding that in human trafficking cases, victims who are pushed into prostitution are minors who are shown as adults through fake IDs and by their appearance.
"When you try to rescue them or raid a brothel, it becomes a big fight to prove that the girls are minor and take them out of the sex racket and rehabilitate them. Fake identity cards are made by the dealers which shows young girls as an adult. They don't have a say in leaving the industry which becomes a challenge", Ghosh said.
Although the recommendations also address the rights of sex workers, living a dignified life, and the behaviour of police towards them, Ranjana says it doesn't touch upon the major issues.
“The recent recommendation is half-baked as it doesn’t talk about the exact measures for the rehabilitation of sex workers who wants to leave the industry, and the mechanism for the safety of women and to prevent human trafficking and flesh trade. What about the health provision, education to their children?" Kumari asks.
Several netizens have taken to social media raising objections to the recommendations.