Pinnacle Court directs the Centre all states UTs to issue voter Aadhaar and ration cards to sex workers

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India’s top court siad that the central and state governments must issue voter and ration cards to sex workers. The panel of three judges also said they should be enrolled in Aadhaar, the biometric system meant to cover the whole country that is often crucial to getting welfare benefits. A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao comprising Justices BR Gavai and B V Nagarathna observed and said every person is guaranteed their fundamental rights irrespective of vocation.  “The fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen of the country irrespective of his or her vocation,” India’s Supreme Court said today. “There is a bounden duty on the government to provide basic amenities to the citizens of the country.” Officials must enter them into databases for voting and benefits, the judges said, after they suffered from the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns. The Supreme Court, hearing a plea that has raised the problems faced by sex workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been passing orders for their welfare and on September 29 last year, it had asked the Centre and others to provide dry ration to them without insisting on their identity proof. The court was hearing a plea filed by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a collective of sex workers based in Kolkata, the capital of India’s West Bengal state, that highlighed problems faced by sex workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The collective, which said it has more than 130,000 registered members, said that sex workers faced destitution, and it sought relief measures for female and transgender sex workers across India. “There is a bounden duty on the government to provide basic amenities to the citizens of the country,”  Justice L Nageswara Rao said. The Supreme Court added that state administrations can take the help of the National AIDS Control Organisation and state AIDS control societies to facilitate the benefits for sex workers. The court said that these organisations could prepare a list of sex workers after verifying information given to them by community-based organisations. The court directed states and Union Territories to file status reports on the matter in four weeks. The bench, which said that the copy of the order be sent to state and district legal services authorities for necessary action, also asked the government to keep the names and identity of sex worker confidential while preparing the various ID cards. Earlier, the Supreme Court, on September 29, 2020, had directed all the states to provide dry rations to sex workers, who are identified by NACO, without insisting on any proof of identity and had sought status report on compliance. Prostitution is legal in India. But running a brothel and other related activities, including soliciting and pimping, are not. Rights groups estimate that India has about 900,000 sex workers. Most, they say, have been pushed into the trade by crushing poverty and sometimes forced into it by human traffickers. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) defines prostitution as sexual exploitation or abuse of a female for monetary purposes and a prostitute is the person who gains that commercial benefit. This act was passed in 1956 and is also referred to as SITA. This law essentially states that prostitutes are allowed to commence their trade in private but they cannot carry their business in public. As per the act, the clients can be arrested if found guilty of engaging in a sexual act in public.