On Thursday 24th September, the Bombay High Court released three sex workers detained at a woman’s hostel and declared that adult women have the right to choose their vocation and cannot be detained without consent.
Reporting on the judgement, the Hindustan Times wrote:
“Justice Prithviraj Chavan said the purpose and the object of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (PITA), 1956 is not to abolish prostitution. “There is no provision under the law which makes prostitution per se a criminal offence or punishes a person because he indulges in prostitution,” said the judge.
Clarifying that what is punishable under the law is exploitation or abuse of a person for commercial purposes and soliciting in public places, the court set free the three young women, aged 20, 22 and 23, respectively.
The women were “rescued” by the social service branch of the Mumbai police from Chincholi Binder area in Malad, in September 2019, after laying a trap using a decoy customer. They were produced before a metropolitan magistrate, who remanded them to a women’s hostel and called for a report from a probation officer.”
The Judge also said, “It is important to note that the petitioners / victims are major and, therefore, have a right to reside at the place of their choice, to move freely throughout the territory of India and to choose their own vocation, as enshrined the Constitution of India.”
All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) welcomed the decision, saying: “This is the legal stamp on the struggle to recognise sex work as work. This order makes us strong and encourage the power of collectivisation of sex workers in India which is a struggle of more than 3 decades. It will also help the Indian sex workers to build the advocacy tool strong and more evident.”