Sex work not illegal as long as not in public spaces: Mumbai court

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Mumbai: A sessions court here has set aside a magistrate's order and directed a shelter home to set at liberty a 34-year-old woman sex worker detained there, saying as per rule, sex work can be called an offence when one engages in it in a public place causing annoyance to others.

The woman approached the sessions court after the magistrate's court on March 15 this year directed her to be detained at the shelter home in Mumbai for one year for care, protection and shelter.

Additional sessions judge C V Patil set aside the magistrate court's order last month. The detailed order was made available recently.

The woman was detained in February following a raid at a brothel in suburban Mulund.

Thereafter, an FIR was registered against the accused and she, along with two others, was produced before a magistrate court in Mazgaon.

After perusal of the medical report, the magistrate found she was a major and sent her to the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigriha, Deonar, for one year for care, protection and shelter from the date of order.

In her plea before the sessions court, the woman denied indulging in any immoral activities.

The sessions court in its order held that the magistrate, only on the ground of antecedent of indulging in similar kind of offence, has detained the victim.

The order is under challenge only on the ground of antecedent that the victim was found indulging earlier also in a similar act, but the victim is major. She has the right to do work, the judge said.

“As per rule, to involve in sex work is not itself an offence, but to do sex work in public place so as to cause annoyance to others can be called as offence,” the sessions court said.

Further, it noted there was no allegation that the woman indulged in sex work in the public.

In such circumstances, detaining the victim only on the ground of one antecedent of the similar work is not proper, the sessions judge said.

The victim has two kids, they certainly need their mother, and if the victim is detained against her wish, it certainly curtails her right to move freely all over India, the court observed.

Hence considering the legal position, major age of the victim, the magistrate court's order dated March 15 needs to be set aside and the victim needs to be set at liberty, it said.


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