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SC asks Centre, States to rehabilitate prostitutes

New Delhi: Observing that sex workers are also entitled to the protection of Article 21(Liberty), the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and states/Union Territoriess to prepare suitable rehabilitation schemes for their welfare.

"We direct the central and state governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all cities in India. The schemes should mention in detail who will give the technical/vocational training and in what manner they can be rehabilitated and settled by offering them employment.

"For instance, if a technical training is for some craft like sewing garments etc, then some arrangements should also be made for providing a market for such garments, otherwise they will remain unsold and unused, and consequently the women will not be able to feed themselves," a bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra said in an order.

The apex court said the Centre and state governments through Social Welfare Boards should prepare schemes for rehabilitation for prostitutes.

"We are of the view that the prostitutes also have a right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India since they are also human beings and their problems also need to be addressed.

"As already observed by us, a woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted opportunity to avail some technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body," the bench said.

The apex court passed the order while dismissing the appeal filed by Budhadev Karmaskar challenging the life imprisonment imposed by a sessions court in Kolkata for the murder of a sex worker in 1999. The Calcutta High Court had confirmed the penalty, following which he appealed in the apex court.

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