Saturday 26 October 2013

Sex Workers are also human beings

"Pinhaa tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyaan ke
Udhne hi na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue "

The above sher (couplet) of the great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, was used by me in my order in Budhadev Karmaskar vs. State of West Bengal, Cr.Appeal 135/2010 (see 'sex workers' on my blog

The word 'pinha' means 'hidden' or 'concealed', 'daam' means 'net', 'sakht' means 'hard' or 'cruel', 'qareeb' means 'near', 'aashiyaan' means 'nest', and 'giraftaar' means 'caught' or 'arrested'.

The sher therefore means :

"Near the nest was the hidden cruel net (of a hunter)
Even before the chick could take its first flight it was caught".

In India perhaps there are 20 million or more sex workers (prostitutes). They have been driven into this profession not because they enjoy it but because of abject poverty. The massive poverty of about 80% of our population of 1200 million people is the real cause of exploitation of women. To fill their stomachs these poor girls have to sell their bodies. These girls should have had a life of happiness, but instead they get caught in the flesh trade because of their poverty at a very early age and their lives are ruined.

I have compared these innocent young girls to the chick which is caught in the net of a cruel hunter in its very first flight.

There are possibly millions of #SexWorkers (prostitutes) in our country. These girls come into the flesh trade not because they enjoy it but because of abject poverty. They become practically slaves of the brothel owners, and are pitilessly exploited, and often brutally treated. Once they enter the flesh trade they became social outcastes for the so called ‘decent’ society.Surely it cannot be said they enjoy a life of dignity envisaged by Article 21 of the Constitution.

Buddhadev Karmaskar vs. State of West Bengal, Criminal Appeal No. 135 of 2010 was a case which came up before a bench of the Supreme Court of which I was the senior member. The appellant had brutally killed a sex worker, and we upheld his conviction. However, having dismissed the appeal, we suo motu converted it into a P.I.L. for rehabilitating sex workers.

We were of the view that if sex workers were given some technical training they could earn their bread through this technical skill, instead of by selling their bodies. Hence we directed the Central and State Governments to prepare schemes for rehabilitating the sex workers, and we also set up a Committee, headed by a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, to monitor this exercise. The case is still going on.

#Urdu poetry has, among other qualities, a unique feature. An Urdu verse can be given a meaning by the reader which was never intended by the writer. Surely #Ghalib, when he wrote the above couplet, never thought it could be applied to sex workers !

For more, read my judgments on the issue here:




  1. Sir , so then we must ban sex work ? I am confused , because if some body want to choose it as profession (by will, without any structural or physical pressure) and abide to broader social norm such as privacy , secracy and medical norms such as proper certification as Non HIV and other Non STD carrier. They should they be allowed or not?
    After all society is organic , it will have some good thing and some bad thing at a same time , so why not to give a channel to bad things . As Nature have given human being a mechanism to excerate unhealthy things out of body . So society should also have mechanism to channelise bad things?
    If we see in economics sence then supply follows the demand , there is demand in sex market thats why there is supply , so , if we stoo this sex worker the demand will remain there and will led to more dangerous condition.
    But on the other side why the girls of poor background or victim of any disaster should be scape goated. . ..?
    So sir please help me in comeing to conclusion that sex worker should be banned or not .?

  2. Sir , above post is mine , but I thing a have some problem with my gmail account thats why I send as anonymous , I will be great full if you can copy your reply on

  3. Govt should protect their rights and provide facilities for their profession. Prostitute must be legalised so that the police can not harass them. They are also human being hence need some regulations for their betterment.

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