SC Directs Centre To Provide Monetary Assistance, Ration To Sex Workers In View Of COVID

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New Delhi: In a big relief to sex workers, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and state governments to immediately provide monetary assistance, food supply and other basic amenities to sex workers, who have been rendered jobless since the Coronavirus-induced lockdown began in March. The court said this should be done without insisting on documents such as ration cards, The Hindu reported.

The bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta asked the Centre if it can exercise its power under the National Disaster Management Act to help sex workers during the crisis. “They are under severe distress now, something urgent has to be done,” Rao said. “This deals with the survival of lakhs of people…You [Centre and state governments] should do something without waiting for our directions.”

Rao also told Additional Solicitor General RS Suri, representing the Centre, that relief measures should not be restricted to just those who approach authorities for help. Efforts should also be made to reach out to those in need, the report added.

In an application before the Supreme Court, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a collective of sex workers, said the pandemic has destroyed their livelihoods and left the community impoverished. Sex workers are entitled to live with dignity, access to food, shelter and social protection, it added.

Representing the collective, senior advocate Anand Grover, said an assessment conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu shows that only 52% of 1.2 lakh sex workers receive ration through the public distribution system. “The situation in other cities is even worse,” he added.

The matter will now come up for hearing on September 29. The court has asked state governments to come ready with their proposals to address the concerns of sex workers, the report added.

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