SC seeks rehabilitation schemes details for sex workers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday warned chief secretaries of all states and union territories that they will have to appear in person if they fail to apprise the court of the steps taken by them to rehabilitate sex workers.

Seeking details of various steps for rehabilitation of sex workers, a bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra granted the states and union territories time till July 15 for filing their responses.

If the states/UTs failed to respond by the deadline, the chief secretaries concerned shall appear in person on July 18, said Justice Katju, who is heading the bench.

The apex court passed the order after senior counsel and amicus curiae Jayant Bhushan informed the bench that so far only West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have filed their replies while others have failed to do so despite the apex court`s earlier direction.

The apex court had on February 14 directed the Centre and various states and UTs to prepare suitable rehabilitation schemes for welfare of sex workers.

"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 and 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," the bench had said.

The apex court had said the Centre and state governments through Social Welfare Boards should prepare schemes for rehabilitation of sex workers.

"We are of the view that 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 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 had said.

The apex court had 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 had appealed in the apex court.