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9532Sex workers entitled to a life of dignity: Supreme Court

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  • Mohammad Imran
    Feb 14, 2011
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      This is a major human rights step taken by the Supreme Court


      Sex workers entitled to a life of dignity: Supreme Court

      J. Venkatesan

      New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and the
      States to prepare schemes for rehabilitation of physically and
      sexually abused women all over the country.

      A Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra, in its
      order, said: “We are of the view that prostitutes also have a right to
      live with dignity under Article 21 [right to life] of the Constitution
      since they are also human beings and their problems also need to be

      The Bench said: “A woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not
      for pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted
      an opportunity to avail herself of some technical or vocational
      training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational
      training and skill instead of by selling her body.”

      The Bench said: Society must have sympathy towards the sex workers and
      must not look down upon them. They are also entitled to a life of
      dignity in view of Article 21.”

      The Bench therefore directed the Central and State governments to
      prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex
      workers and sexually abused women in all cities. “The schemes should
      mention in detail who will give technical/vocational training and in
      what manner they can be rehabilitated and settled by offering them
      employment. For instance, if technical training is for some craft like
      sewing garments, then some arrangements should also be made for
      providing a market for such garments; otherwise, they will remain
      unsold and unused and consequently the women will not be able to feed

      The Bench was dismissing an appeal filed by Budhadev Karmaskar against
      a Calcutta High Court judgment upholding life imprisonment awarded by
      a trial court for the murder of a sex worker, Chayay Rani Pal, in a
      red light area in Kolkata in September 1999.

      Declining to interfere with the High Court judgment said, it said:
      “This is a case of brutal murder of a sex worker. Sex workers are also
      human beings and no one has a right to assault or murder them.”

      The Bench said: “In novels and stories of the great Bengali writer
      Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya, many prostitutes have been shown to be
      women of very high character, e.g., Rajyalakshmi in Shrikant and
      Chandramukhi in Devdas. The plight of prostitutes has been depicted by
      the great Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi in his poem ‘Chakle', which has
      been sung in the Hindi film Pyasa — ‘Jineh Naaz Hai Hind Per Wo Kahan
      Hain' (simplified version of ‘Sana Khwan-e-taqdees-e-Mashrik Kahan

      The Bench, issuing notice to the Centre and the States, directed them
      to file their response by May 4, when the matter will be taken up
      again for further directions.