Supreme Court to amend term ‘sex worker’ in handbook on gender stereotypes | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Supreme Court to amend term ‘sex worker’ in handbook on gender stereotypes

Nov 11, 2023 02:24 PM IST

The Supreme Court of India has decided to replace the term "sex worker" in its handbook on gender stereotypes with more inclusive language. The change comes after a group of anti-trafficking NGOs raised concerns that the term "sex worker" promotes gender stereotypes.

The Supreme Court has decided to replace the term “sex worker” in its handbook on gender stereotypes with “trafficked victim/survivor or woman engaged in commercial sexual activity or woman forced into commercial sexual exploitation,” after a group of anti-trafficking NGOs wrote to Chief Justice of India, justice DY Chandrachud, that using the word “sex worker” for words like “hooker and prostitute” may end up promoting another set of gender stereotypes, people familiar with the matter said.

A group of anti-trafficking NGOs wrote to Chief Justice of India, justice DY Chandrachud, that using the word ‘sex worker’ for words like ‘hooker and prostitute’ may end up promoting another set of gender stereotypes. (File Photo)
A group of anti-trafficking NGOs wrote to Chief Justice of India, justice DY Chandrachud, that using the word ‘sex worker’ for words like ‘hooker and prostitute’ may end up promoting another set of gender stereotypes. (File Photo)

TThe Group of NGOs under the banner of Anti-Human Trafficking Forum consisting of ARZ (Anyay Rahit Zindagi) from Goa; Prayas from Mumbai; Prerana from Maharashtra; KIDS from Karnataka; Nedan from Assam, VIPLA from Maharashtra; SPID from Delhi; New Life Foundation from Manipur among others had requested the CJI to reconsider use of the term “sex worker” in the glossary of terms mentioned in the “Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes” published by the court in August 2023.

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On Friday evening Anurag Bhaskar, deputy registrar, CRP, Supreme Court of India, in an email to ARZ informed that the CJI has accepted the change.

“Based on your suggestion, the nomenclature/word ‘sex worker’ is being changed to the following: ‘Trafficked victim/survivor or woman engaged in commercial sexual activity or woman forced into commercial sexual exploitation’,” the email said, adding that the change will be added soon to the handbook.

The NGOs, in their letter, had said, “Most women are forced, kidnapped, lured, and trafficked into situations of commercial sexual exploitation. By using a generic term like sex worker, one may be assuming that all women engaged in commercial sexual activity may be in this out of free and positive choice. It negates the reality that most women enter the trade through force or fraud, and many remain in it out of negative choice due to lack of better alternatives,” the NGOs said

ARZ said that under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, while women are free to engage in commercial sexual activity, anyone who forces or lures them into this activity shall be prosecuted including those living off their earnings. Section 2 (f) of the ITPA, 1956, defines “prostitution” as the sexual exploitation or abuse of persons for commercial purposes, and the expression “prostitute” is to be construed accordingly.

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