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'Sex Work Not An Offence If Not In Public': Mumbai Court Orders Release Of Woman Detained At Shelter Home

The woman was reportedly detained in February following a raid at a brothel in suburban Mulund. Thereafter, an FIR was registered against the accused, while the woman, along with two others, was produced before a magistrate court in Mazgaon.

Sex workers holding banners and placards.
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A sessions court in Mumbai has set aside a magistrate's order and directed a shelter home in the city to set free a 34-year-old woman sex worker detained there. The court observed that as per law, sex work can be called an offence only when one engages in it in a public place causing annoyance to others.

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

The woman was reportedly detained in February following a raid at a brothel in suburban Mulund. Thereafter, an FIR was registered against the accused, while the woman, along with two others, was produced before a magistrate court in Mazgaon.

After perusal of the medical report, the magistrate on March 15 found her to be a major and sent her to the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigriha, Deonar, for one year for care, protection and shelter from the date of order.

Subsequently, the woman approached the sessions court denying her role in any immoral activities. The court in its order held that the magistrate, only on the ground of antecedent of indulging in a similar kind of offence, has detained the victim. 

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

Moreover, the victim has two minor kids. “Certainly, they 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.

Considering the legal position and 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 observed.

The court was hearing the victim’s appeal under section 17(6) of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (PITA) and requested her release on executing a Personal Recognizance (PR) bond until the final hearing of the appeal.

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