July 19, 2024

Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2 (Governance)


The pandemic has hit millions of people and caused a great deal of suffering across communities. But there is one community that is especially hard hit and that is sex workers. Owing to the non-recognition of sex work as “legitimate work”, sex workers have mostly been kept at arm’s length from the government’s relief programmes. COVID-19 has thus provided more reason to consider a long-pending demand of sex workers in India — decriminalisation of sex work and a guaranteed set of labour rights.

An Archaic, Regressive View:

  • The legislation governing sex work in indiais the immoral traffic (prevention) act.
  • The suppression of immoral traffic in women and children act was enacted in 1956.
  • subsequent amendments were made to the law and the name of the act was changed to immoral traffic (prevention) act.
  • The legislation penalises actssuch as:
    • Keeping a brothel,
    • Soliciting in a public place,
    • Living off the earnings of sex workand
    • Living with or habitually being in the company of a sex worker

Issues with the Immoral Traffic act:

  • This act represents the archaic and regressive view that sex work is morally wrongand that the people involved in it, especially women, never consent to it voluntarily.
  • After all, in popular depiction, entry into sex work is involuntary, forced, and through deception.
  • As a consequence, it is believed that these women need to be “rescued” and “rehabilitated”, sometimes even without their consent.
  • While this is a valid argument for minor girls, for many consenting adult sex workers, it has been a problem.

Consequences of the archaic belief system on sex workers:

  • This is what has led to the classification of ‘‘respectable women” and “non-respectable women”.
  • This view is based on the belief that sex work is “easy” work and no one will or should choose to practise it.
  • It thus perpetuates the prejudice that women who do practise sex work are morally devious.
  • The act has not only criminalised sex workbut also further stigmatised and pushed it underground thus leaving sex workers more prone to violence, discrimination and harassment.
  • The act denies an individual their right over their bodies.
  • Moreover, it imposes the will of the state over adultsarticulating their life choices.
  • It gives no agency to the sex workers to fight against the traffickers and in fact, has made them more susceptible to be harassed by the state officials.
  • The act fails to recognise that many women willingly enterinto agreements with traffickers, sometimes just to seek a better life as chosen by them.
  • Evidence shows that many women choose to remain in sex workdespite opportunities to leave after ‘rehabilitation’ by the government or non-governmental organisations.

Labour right:

  • The justice verma commissionhad also acknowledged that there is a distinction between women who are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and adult, consenting women who are in sex work of their own volition.


  • We must recognise sex workas work and stop ourselves from assigning morality to their work.
  • Adult men, women and transgender persons in sex work have the right to earn by providing sexual services; live with dignity; and remain free from violence, exploitation, stigma and discrimination.
  • It is time we rethink sex work from a labour perspective, where we recognise their work and guarantee them basic labour rights.




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

© 2024 Civilstap Himachal Design & Development