Need For Sex Workers’ Union In India

This Blog is inscribed by Nitish Pattanaik.

Prostitution” is a word which widens everyone’s eyes. Being one of the oldest professions on earth it does not get the respect it deserves. In Hindu Mythology prostitution is represented as a respected job. The prostitutes like Rambha, Menaka, and Urvarshi works and get the respect at heaven. The King of Gods, Indra, respects them and gave them honorable positions in heaven.

Prostitution can be termed and said as one of the oldest professions in the world and nobody accepts it till today. If we will talk about India there are approx. 15 million prostitutes, and this profession is increasing day by day. There are over 100000 women practicing this profession in a city in India. The challenges which are faced by them today are more disastrous and is increasing day by day. For this reason, there something and some solutions needed for them to solve this issue so that they could be treated and regulated in the same manner as persons from other industry and organizations are getting. Most important thing is their rights needs to be protected in today’s modern world.

But if we talk about other countries around the globe, we can see that the sex workers completely given freedom about their rights and representing it. After many years of formation of labor unions in Australia, the sex workers of that country made them registered under Australian liquors, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union under the trade union of Australia.

After a debate in the European Trade Union Confederation Congress in 2007 a question was put about the conditions of laborers and sex workers. If we will talk about Japan, after many years of abuse and anti-prostitution legislation the government is working to bring prostitution out of the darkness of suggesting that this formation of sex workers union might invite illegal trade practices between them and the underground. After many heated arguments against the unionization of sex workers it still can be called as a strong way to strengthen the community and protection of rights of an individual sex worker.

Prostitution can be a major source of income for many individuals. After long time the Supreme Court of India observed that it is necessary to work on both the ways so that both the rights of an individual may be protected.  If we will talk about the first sex workers Union, then it was first formed in Ibiza, Spain. It was the first and only Union of sex workers which was formed during that time. It was named as Sealeer Cooperative, which was formed after helping women who are cheated by clients and were physically abused.

In Australia, many changes were done after that in these fields, the government concentrated on health issues and worked upon the measures to prevent the spread of HIV and took many more preventive measures like the use of condom and many more medical precautions. After that they concentrated on not just protecting the rights of unions but also concentrated on the worker of age 18 years by extracting them from the unionization and sending them to rehabilitation camps.

If we talk about the legal provisions very limited laws and provisions are available for sex workers. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act deals with the laws and provisions. Section-2 deals with definitions and necessary conditions where sex work is performed. It also deals with minors, powers of police, magistrate, and public officials.

Section-3 deals with punishments and fines which vary accordingly to the conditions, fines from 2000, and 1000 with imprisonment from 2 to 5 years of rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to 7 years.

Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal

([2011] 10 SCR 578)

In this case a survey was conducted by Supreme Court if India and its main were to determine the problem faced by the sex workers in the Industry. They made surveys on number of sex workers working in that industry how many of them did not want to pursue this anymore and how many of them wanted to pursue this profession further.

After all these works it was noticed that there is a need of Unionization of these sex workers for their welfare and protection. So many NGOs and social Workers came forward for this and rehabilitation centers were promoted by them thus concerning that unionization of sex workers is necessary.

If we talk about current scenario in India there are a lot of problems faced by the sex workers. The three main reasons why the formation of Union of sex workers is necessary are-

  1. Various types of abuses faced by the sex workers like financial abuse, Domestic abuse, and Sexual abuse from the clients.
  2. Health issues like AIDS and other health diseases
  3. Poverty

If we talk about Australia being a similar country to India has decriminalized prostitution and gave permission for the formation of trade union of sex workers while in India the conduction is quite bad. The sex workers are not being provided with basic rights as a citizen. They are not allowed to vote in some places and there is a denial in ration cards and other facilities which a citizen of a country should be provided as it is their fundamental rights.

Anyways it must be noted that in many countries around the world sex works has been either legalized or has been decriminalized and, in some places, they were given permission for the formation of their Trade Unions.

We can see that the formation of trade unions of sex workers is necessary as a safeguard to them and their profession. In India currently there are many such Unions are being made for the protection of rights of sex workers and the largest union of sex workers is the National Network of Sex Workers, India. The aim of this union is to deal with the rights and protection of sex workers all around India.[1]

 Another such Trade union is Karnataka sex workers Union which is playing vital parts in spreading awareness among public and fights loudly on the problems of their profession.

The Union brings awareness and truth about the sex workers and the abuses which were faced by them in daily life and how the clients treat them miserably. They perform their tasks and profession just like other laborer, but they failed to get the rights and respect they should get.

Although the sex industry does not fulfill the conditions and lays the standard as per the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, the workers should be considered as workers and they also do not get protected by any Act.


If we will talk about facts, then according to the report of National AIDS control there are 800,000 women and unofficially there might be many more. These huge parts of society face various problems and violence. They face Domestic abuse, and they face rage from the society as the society does not accept them.

The other problems may include the actions and mistreatment of Police officials. In many cases the police officials are biased, and they arrest the sex workers illegally and at least 3000 such cases are noticed every month. Apart from that there is no Labor protection Rights available for them which makes their life more miserable.

Another Major such problem is the health care facilities which are being denied for them in many cases. The disease like STD and AIDS is increasing more in this community.

 It is reported that although the National AIDS Control Organization and their partners are trying to reach but are not being successful.[2]

There are organizations such as VAMP, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), SANGRAM (Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha) etc., who are working towards these problems, but a wide range of Unionization is required so that they problems faced by these community should be decreased.

So, to works on these problems there is a need of certain precautions and works which should be done as soon as possible by keeping eye on the future scenario.

  • A stronger level of awareness programs is needed to be conducted by the NGOs and Social workers to work on this problem.
  • A strong advocacy program is needed which should work for the problems of sex workers and their union.
  • Collecting resources for them and looking after their health and welfare needs.
  • Campaign should be done by the sex workers and their Unions reflecting their problems which they face in their daily life.
  • To build more networks and connect more people so that a proper unionization should be made.
  • Spreading awareness among the society especially among the younger generations.[3]

[1] Neerja Gurnani, Unionization of sex workers in India, March 27, 2015,


[2] All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), 2019,


[3] All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), 2019,


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