Sex Workers to Live With Dignity

Sex workers to live with dignity


As right to life includes the right to live with human dignity elaborated by apex court in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India.

Part III of Indian Constitution also guarantees fundamental rights which are meant to preserve and protect people. Article 21 of constitution deals with this right to life. The right to life is the most fundamental right of citizens and non-citizens from the alien country.

Right to live with human dignity means that every person has the inalienable right to live with dignified life without discrimination. All are entitled to claim equal respect from the state as well as from other persons.

Social equity which is the base of the Indian constitution has its suggestions in the criminal equity framework as well. The preamble of the Indian constitution clarifies that there is uniformity among all the citizens of India and reasoning behind all people being equivalent under the watchful eye of law including administrators and followers of the equivalent law. Each human life is valuable and beautiful.One must offer appreciation to one’s human dignity.

Who are sex workers?

A sex worker is a person who provides sex work either on a regular basis or occasional basis. The term is used in reference to those who work in all areas of the sex industry. The term sex worker was coined in 1978 by sex worker activist Carol Leigh. Its use became popularized after publication of the anthology, Sex Work: Writings By Women In The Sex Industry in 1987,edited by Frederique Delacoste and Priscilla Alexander. Sex workers may be any gender and exchange sexual services or favors for money or other gifts. The motive of sex workers vary widely and can include debt, coercion, survival or simply as a profession.

There are over 800,000 sex workers in India and the unofficial number is even higher and it is also income generating activity. The (ILO) International Labour Organization estimates that sex workers support between five and eight other people with their earnings. They also contribute to the economy.

What are the reasons to get engage in sex work?

The main motive for prostitution in all groups is money. Money is cited by 85% of the prostitutes” says Kofod.

The reasons for getting engaged in sex work are as-

1. Poverty

2. Family tradition

3. Lack of education

4. Low socioeconomic status

5. Family reasons and lack of support

6. Deception by known people or forced sex

7. Deception by unknown people.

Sex work a form of sexual violence?

No, when an adult makes a decision of his/her or their own free will to exchange sex for money that is not sexual violence.

When a sex worker is the victim of a crime including sexual violence, the police should investigate and refer suspects for prosecution. When a person exchanges sex for money as a result of coercion, for example by a pimp – or experiences violence from a pimp or a customer or a victim of trafficking ,these are serious crimes. The police should investigate and refer the case for prosecution. And sex workers are exposed to high levels of violence and other abuse or harm, but this is usually because they are working in a criminalized environment. Research by Human Rights Watch and others indicates that decriminalization can help reduce crime, including sexual violence against sex workers.

Legality of sex work in India

Supreme Court of India recently observed that sex work is a profession like any other and sex workers should not be harassed by the police.Sex workers are also entitled to equal protection of the law.The court ruled that when this is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is participating with consent then the police must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action. It enables sex workers to enjoy their rights like any other citizen. It should be pointed out that sex work or prostitution is not illegal in India, however trafficking for sexual exploitation is an offence under law. And sex work as an organized trade which involves pimping ,soliciting, exploitation ,renting out of property for sex work are all punishable as per Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act(ITPA).

The three-judge Bench led by Justice L.Nageswara Rao said that sex workers are equally entitled to a life of dignity as guaranteed under article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Landmark Case

Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal

In the present case ,a sex worker was brutally murdered by Budhadev Karmaskar. This incident was happened on 17thSeptember 1999.The deceased Chayay Rani Pal Alias Buri was living in a red light area and was a resident of Calcutta. She was a sex worker.

The appellant Budhadev kicked her with legs and fists and she fell to the floor and after that he caught her by her hairs and banged her head against the floor and the wall several times which left her injured, she was bleeding through her nose and mouth .She was then taken to the hospital where she was found dead on arrival. The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice L Nageswara Rao ,BR Gavai and AS Bopana dismissed the appeal and observed that the right to life under Article 21 of Indian Constitution includes basic protection of human dignity extends to sex workers and their children who ,bearing the brunt of social stigma attached to their work get deprived of their right to live with dignity and opportunities to provide the same to their children. So court also directed the Central and State governments to prepare schemes for giving techinal or vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all cities in India.

The Apex Court has also constituted a Panel for sex workers in 2011 and are identified as-

1.Prevention of trafficking

2.Rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work

3.Condition conclusive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity.

What should government do?

Same as other fields ,government should decriminalize sex work and should ensure that sex work don’t face any discrimination in law or practice. They should also strengthen services for sex workers. They should also ensure that they have safe working conditions and access to social safety and public benefits. Further, activities, regulations and controls on sex workers need to be non-discriminatory and be comply with international human rights law. For ex-Restrictions that would prevent those engaged persons in sex work from organizing collectively or working in a environment that is safe are not legitimate restrictions.

Effects of legalization of sex work

1.It will give freedom to sex workers to enjoy equal rights

2.Economic empowerment.

3.They will also get equal respect in society.

4.Sex work will considered as work.

5.The government can keep a check if no minor is involved in sex work.

6.There will reduced no of rape cases and trafficking.

7.There will be regular health checkups so there will no sexually transmitted diseases.

8.There will no forced sex work as government will keep a check on it.


As sex work is not new, its an old profession in India and with changing time stigma and discrimination against sex workers have vast negative implications includes creating an environment conductive to social exclusion, violence etc. It can also be inferred that for issues like prostitution, there exists no requirement for any specific cure like decriminalizing, sanctioning it etc. Many past researches shows that it is difficult to refute fact that legalization of prostitution bears negative and positive effects. So just providing validity to it will not be sufficient to resolve this problem rather than this,a uniform law must be made for it. As regulation of sex work prostitution will help to safeguard the sex workers and their children from getting exploited and it will also ensure protection of the health of sex workers and society also. Therefore, a set of rules and regulations should be established in order to regulate this industry.


As per my suggestions, society should be aware and so developed thinking they should have that they will not criticize sex workers and sex work, society should realize that they also deserve same respect as other citizens do. Equal rights should be provided to them and government should bring more laws to protect and to ensure their rights so that they can also live with dignity. Employment should be provided to all so that they can get means to make money.

Author: Akashdeep Sandhu,
Lovely professional university,2nd year student

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