International Sex Workers Day Significant In Light Of Recent SC Judgement

New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s recent judgement recognising prostitution as a profession almost coincides with the International Sex Workers’ Day today. In that sense, it came at an opportune time.

The day is observed to raise awareness and give voice to these uncounted millions across the world. Women engaged in this oldest profession in the world continue to face hardships.

United Nations estimates that since 2009, over 40 million individuals have been working as sex workers. Other jobs like that of pimps and sex content creators are also in the category of sex workers but they face much lower risks in their jobs.

How it started

The movement started in 1975 on June 2 when nearly 100 sex workers occupied the Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon (France).  They occupied the church for eight days. Their demands included an end to police discrimination against sex work and decent working conditions.

Inspired by the occupation in Lyon, other sex workers occupied churches in Paris, Marseille, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne and Montpellier. Despite having popular support from political, union and feminist organisations, including the priest of the church in Lyon, the police removed the occupiers from the church on the orders of the government and no legislation or reform followed.


The theme of the International Sex Workers’ Day remains the same every year – ‘Access to Justice’ for sex workers across the world since they often face criminal charges and harassment despite being victims.

Supreme Court Judgement

In the recent SC judgement recognising prostitution as a profession, Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B..R Gavai and A.S. Bopanna set out six directives to improve and protect the rights of sex workers.

Invoking special powers under Article 142 of the Constitution while passing the order, the three-judge bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao said, “Sex workers are entitled to equal protection of the law. Criminal law must apply equally in all cases, based on ‘age’ and ‘consent’. When it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is participating with consent, the police must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action.”
The court also directed the police to stop arresting, and harassing sex workers when they carry out a raid at any brothel as voluntary sex work is not illegal and only running a brother is outlawed.

“The backlash is already beginning,” said Meena Saraswathi Seshu, general secretary of SANGRAM, a collective advocating for sex workers based in Sangli, Maharashtra state speaking to The Washington Post. “The police are going to start looking for any kinds of arguments not to follow the Supreme Court.”

“But now, when the police do not follow the [Supreme Court] order, we have language and space that we did not have before. That’s our biggest weapon to fight against police violence, ” she was quoted as saying at that time.

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