M A I N   N E W S

Treat sex workers with dignity: SC
Directs states to prepare rehab schemes for them by July 15
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, May 5
Sex workers have finally found a friend in the Supreme Court, which has taken upon itself to uphold their dignity and remind the Centre and states that prostitution is almost always a compulsion and never a choice.

In a rare direction yesterday, the Division Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra, sought reports on what vocational and technical training schemes the states were proposing to ensure meaningful rehabilitation of the physically and sexually abused women, sex workers to be specific.

The court had earlier asked the states to submit responses by May 4. But yesterday, it issued stern warnings to defaulters (except UP and West Bengal) saying those who don’t comply by July 15 would have to send their chief secretaries in person for explanation of delays on July 19, the next date of hearing. “No further delay in filing of the response would be tolerated,” the Bench observed.

Interesting to note here is the manner in which the apex court has gone about demanding dignity for sex workers in this matter involving the murder of Chhaya Rani, a prostitute from Calcutta, who was so brutally punched by her assaulter on September 17, 1999, that she died. Convicted for murder by lower courts, the accused - Buddadev Karmasker - recently approached the SC against his conviction.

Declining the appeal, the Supreme Court noted that it was the Centre’s and states’ obligation through social welfare boards to prepare schemes for the rehabilitation of sex workers in every Indian city. “A woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but due to poverty,” the Bench said. The Court’s observations were intense, with the judges invoking the finest literature to seek respect for prostitutes.

“In the stories of Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, many prostitutes have been shown to be women of very high character like Rajyalakshmi in “Shrikant” and Chandramukhi in “Devdas”. The plight of prostitutes has been depicted by Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianavi in his poem “Chakle”. We may also refer to Sonya Marmelodov in Dostoyevsky’s work, “Crime and Punishment”. Sonya sacrifices her body to earn bread for her impoverished family. Reference may also be made to Amrapali, a contemporary of Lord Buddha,” the Bench said in its order. 





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