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SC asked Centre to comply with 2011 committee’s report, issue ration card & voter IDs to sex workers

By Malaika Kadam

State and UTs governments have been scolded by the Supreme Court for the non-compliance of the decade old directions to issue ration and identity cards to sex workers, and have directed the immediate issue of the same.

The bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai and B.V. Nagarathna said that the right to dignity is a fundamental right irrespective of a person’s choice of employment and the decade long delay is groundless.

The government is bound to provide basic amenities to its citizens, the bench observed and directed the governments to recognize the sex workers through National AIDS Control Organization list and begin the process of issuing of the said identity cards.

The apex court on July 19, 2011, had appointed a committee pertaining to the issues of prevention of trafficking, rehabilitation of those who wish to relinquish the sex work and the conducive environment for the sex workers to live with dignity as per the Article 21.

Along with the above order, a few more orders were passed by the Court for the Union government and State governments, which are:

  1. Demanding information by the states about the alternative source of livelihood provided to sex workers intending rehabilitation.

  2. Free legal aid to sex workers via helpline that is to be managed by the State Legal Services Authority.

  3. Directions given to the Union Government to widen the scope of schemes pertaining to the rescued trafficked persons, to include the sex workers intending to relinquish their vocation.

  4. Equipping sex workers with Voter Identity cards, ration cards, bank accounts, etc., and relaxation in the process of residential address verification.

  5. Protection of right to education of sex workers’ children and providing required facilities such as crèche, day care and night care centers.

The State governments and the UTs have been directed by the Bench to provide dry ration to the NACO identified sex workers without any identity proof, being considerate of the ongoing pandemic, with the assistance of the District Legal Services Authority.

According to Senior Advocate Anand Grover such issuance of ration cards would provide for a solution to the problems of the sex workers.

It was found and informed to the Court by Amicus curiae Jayant Bhushan that for a few months during the pandemic dry ration was distributed and was stopped later on. Also, it was mentioned that out of more than 24,000 sex workers, around half of them were not availing the advantages of the scheme.

Consequently, this order was passed regarding the distribution of dry ration as production of identity proofs would be a hardship for sex workers, and the court directed to keep the identities of sex workers privileged. It was also mentioned that only West Bengal and Maharashtra had been complying with the October 2020 order’s directions.

The next hearing of the matter is due on January 10, 2022.


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