Supreme Court comes to the aid of sex workers

Court tells States not to insist on identity documents to give them dry rations

December 03, 2021 11:24 pm | Updated 11:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of Supreme Court in New Delhi. File

A view of Supreme Court in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court has reiterated its direction to States and Union Territories to supply dry rations to sex workers identified by the National AIDS Control Organisation and district legal authorities without insisting on the production of identity documents like ration card.

“Right to food has been recognised as a human right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Though, there is some improvement in the situation caused by COVID-19 pandemic, we are of the view that the constitutional obligation on the State governments and Union Territories to provide basic amenities to the citizens of this country takes into its fold that the sex workers are entitled for being provided dry ration,” a Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao recorded in a recent order.

The court pointed out that it would be difficult for sex workers to produce a proof of identity.

The court ordered the States and Union Territories to file status before December 10. It listed the case for hearing on December 14.

In the last hearing, the Bench had highlighted the plight of the community, saying lakhs of people are in severe distress and the government needs to reach out to them and provide them with food.

The Bench asked the Centre to consider whether it could take similiar steps for granting relief to sex workers as were taken for helping the transgender community amid COVID19 pandemic and lockdown.

One of the petitioners in the case, Durbar Mahila Samanway Committee, the country’s oldest collective of sex workers, had said sex workers were entitled to live with dignity with access to food, shelter and social protection.

It said the pandemic had ravaged their lives and livelihoods and left the community impoverished.

It explained that many in the community are single mothers unable to afford an education for their children in the current scenario. Attempts to secure alternative livelihoods have failed due to social stigma.

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