Favouring the legalisation of sex trade to ensure better living conditions for sex workers in the country, National Commission of Women chief Lalita Kumaramangalam had earlier said that she would be sharing her recommendations in the matter on November 8 with a panel constituted by the apex court.
Women's rights activists, however, believe the thin line between 'decriminalisation' and 'legalisation' needs to be defined and that factors like women entering the trade by choice or through force need to be taken into account.
"NCW should have consulted with groups working with sex workers before drafting any such proposal. They should have been taken on board.
"Trafficking is a crime, but I do believe that a 'calibrated decriminalisation' of sex work is needed to ensure rights and dignity of sex workers who are at the mercy of social hypocrisy and police harassment," says Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All-India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA).
"Legalising sex work should not mean that government tells women that sex work is the default work option for women," she adds.
Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research, says legalising sex trade would lead to violation of labour laws.
"As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), any trade which is 'decent' and is not done under distress is legal. Sex trade does not fall in either of the categories. We have not been able to implement labour laws in the hundreds of existing sectors and we are talking of sex trade," she says.
"Does that mean we are heading towards adding the income earned from flesh trade to our accounting systems, to our per capita income," she adds.
Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, an NGO working with sex workers, says, "Sex workers have been demanding equal status and access to opportunities in society, they want laws to save them from harassment by police, but they do not definitely want the trade to have legal status."
The Supreme Court had constituted a panel in August, 2011, after a PIL was filed the year before on the rehabilitation of sex workers.
The panel would deliberate upon the existing provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA), loopholes, implementation of the law and the impact of such implementation on sex workers and their lives.
ITPA was enacted to combat trafficking in women and sexual exploitation for commercial purposes.