The right to human dignity extends to sex workers and the police must not abuse them verbally or physically, the Supreme Court has said, Live Law reported on Wednesday. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and AS Bopanna observed that the police’s attitude towards sex workers is often “brutal and violent”.

The court also issued a set of directions on protection of the rights of sex workers while hearing a batch of petitions on the matter. This was after the court accepted several recommendations of a panel that it had formed to look into the matter.

“It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognised,” the court noted on Wednesday.

The court also directed the media not to publish photographs of sex workers or to reveal their identities in any manner while reporting on operations carried out to rescue them. It told the Press Council of India to issue guidelines on the matter.

The court said that Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code (voyeurism) should be invoked if a media outlet publishes such photographs.

Other directions given by the court on the rights of sex workers include:

  • A sex worker who has faced sexual assault should be provided with all facilities available to other such women, including immediate medical attention.  
  • State governments should carry out surveys of protection homes under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act so that cases of adult women detained forcibly in such facilities can be processed for their release.
  • The Unique Identification Authority of India should issue Aadhaar cards to sex workers on the basis of a certificate submitted by a gazetted officer at the National AIDS Control Society or the project director of the State AIDS Control Society.