The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the central government to formulate an effective scheme for the rehabilitation of the sex workers who want to voluntarily quit the trade and lead a life of dignity.
The apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra said this while noting that the UJJAWALA scheme for the rehabilitation of sex workers was only for those rescued and not for those who wanted to voluntarily quit the sex trade.
The court said that rescued sex workers should not be compelled to stay in corrective homes for acquiring technical skills.
"In our opinion, no such condition should be imposed as many sex workers are reluctant to stay in these corrective homes which they consider as virtual prison," the order said.
Perusing the report of a panel on sex workers appointed by it, the court expressed its dissatisfaction that the central and state governments were not effectively taking steps in the spirit of its order in the case.
"While a few officers have indeed been motivated, much more needs to be done by the authorities," the order said.
The judges said that the central and state governments must submit by the next hearing of the case Sep 15 additional reports stating in greater detail how they were complying with its orders.
The court directed the state legal services authorities to provide a helpline number to NGOs and state officials as well as sex workers and victims of sex trade, so that they could use it to get rescued or avail legal assistance.
Expressing its disappointment over the way West Bengal government was treating the problem, the court said that providing short stay homes to sex workers was hardly a solution to their problem.
"They must be provided technical skill so that they can earn their livelihood through such technical skill instead of by selling their bodies. Merely sending them to homes is sending them to starvation," the order said.
The apex court praised the work on the rehabilitation of sex-workers in Andhra Pradesh. It said the way NGOs and the state government were cooperating was an example for others to emulate.
The judges directed the central and state governments to give funds to facilitate the functioning of the court-appointed panel on sex workers.