The Supreme Court’s ruling that "prostitution is a profession and sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection under the law” should set at rest the harassment of such women. Police show no respect for their human dignity when in the name of raids on “prostitution dens”, they are exposed to public ridicule and their pictures are allowed to be publicised. Though sex work is not possible without the involvement of men, they invariably escape such humiliation because of the gender bias of the raiding party. They also have the capacity to pay bribes. Their children are snatched away from them and they are forcibly admitted to children’s homes where siblings are separated from one another. Often, they are exposed to physical, sexual, and mental harassment.
Sex between consenting adults for either love or money is not something that should bother the state. Just because they practice sex work does not mean that all the protections the Constitution provides to citizens can be denied to them. With this order of the three-member Bench, all raids, arrests, and parading of sex workers should come to an end.
Though it took millennia for the highest court in the country to declare sex work as a profession, it is considered as the “oldest profession”. Because their work was considered illegal, they were not entitled to any institutional safeguards or support. The women get only a portion of their income, as the money is divided among their keepers, pimps, and policemen. And when the going gets tough because of old age and illness, they have, more often than not, nothing to fall back upon. The children born to them, accidentally or otherwise, suffer all kinds of indignities. The court’s order should awaken the Central and state governments to the need to initiate ameliorative steps that will extend to the care and protection that any citizen is entitled to.