A profession that’s been continuously in force since times immemorial, and never received the dignity or recognition it deserves, is that of sex work. People visit sex workers in the quiet of the night, and some even call them home to satisfy their thirst for physical pleasures. However, what happens once the work is done? A meager amount of cash is thrown at them, and they are made to remember their “standard”. Some workers are even sushed up and beaten when they ask for more money (their standard service price), or other necessities such as healthcare, food, etc. To have big dreams while being a sex worker in India, for them, is nothing short of a crime against the “pious” society.
Supreme Court Speaks for Sex Work
When Gangubai (from the famous Bollywood movie Gangubai Kathiawadi) said, “Izzat se jeene ka, darne ka nahi”, who knew the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India will reiterate the same vision for sex workers in India.
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court opines that sex work is indeed a profession in India and that every sex worker- male, female, or trans- has the right to live a life of dignity and personal liberty. Although this right is enshrined beautifully in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, what was the need to re-establish this right, especially for the sex traders? Well, the truth behind closed doors of Sonagachi, Reshampura, Kamathipura, and other red-light zones of India might not be discussed openly but is known by almost every citizen of the country. While these areas, prominently known as home to sex workers and prostitutes, have been distinguished as the “non-elite” areas of society, issues arise when there is a blatant disregard for the dignity and livelihood of not only these workers but their children as well. Prodigies of prostitutes are often denied admission to private schools. They are not allowed to mingle with children from the “better-half” of society. In some cases, they are even thrown into becoming sex workers without consent.
Prostitution a Profession: Benefits of Recognition
How does the Supreme Court’s decision render support to this everlasting but downtrodden community of the country?
- Firstly, recognition of sex workers will, at least on paper, ensure the dignity and respect that every professional of the working class is entitled to. Remember that dialogue from Panchayat 2, where a dancer tells Abhishek (sacheev ji) how all of us are dancing to the tunes of life? Are we not? A computer science engineer is working at an organization where he slogs off and sells their enhanced “brainy” knowledge 8-10 hours a day to complete projects on a basic pay scale. On the other hand, a sex worker who might be deprived of education or a good job, works in a similar manner by selling off their bodily knowledge to her customers. Why then, the former be considered a profession and the latter not?
- Secondly, proper legal recognition of these workers in India will help provide them a better standard of living, provide them identification in the form of issued Adhaar Cards, and allow them to lead a normal life sans fear of illegal detentions, threats, and free them from denial of police and legal aid. Their recognition will also ensure that sex workers can avail themselves of basic social security needs such as better healthcare facilities, something that they’ve been deprived of for long. It’ll also lead to representatives of these areas being included in local decision-making processes, and welfare schemes or plans by the authorities.
- Further, recognition of sex work as a profession will also provide them a stronghold to fulfill their duties as parents and shape young minds in the best way possible. Children of sex workers will not be distinguished on the basis of their parent’s profession, they’ll be allowed in private schools without being looked down upon, and they’ll have the ability to choose their future. Of course, they too could enter the sex work profession out of their will, but this recognition opens the gates for them to choose myriad professions such as engineering, advocacy, journalism, etc.
While the Supreme Court may have passed a decent judgment, there will also be a part of society that’ll stand up against it. Should we be paying heed to their tantrums? Or should we, as humans, remember, the same blood that runs in the veins of one and all? And if all of us are equal before the law, why should we be denied the same recognition within society? These are some questions that can be answered by no one except our conscience. The law will declare the rights; however, it is up to us to recognize those rights and become a valuable part of a better society, a better world.
Let’s stop using “prostitutes” and “prostitution” as slang, and use them as general terms of a profession, like any other. It is time to improve the existing. We are ready, are you?
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