NLU Delhi is organizing a Panel Discussion on Sex Work as Work: Socio-Legal Disclosure on November 17, from 3 PM to 5 PM.
National Law University, Delhi was established in 2008 by Act No. 1 of 2008 of NCT Delhi in the National Capital Territory of Delhi with the initiative of the High Court of Delhi.
Sexual labour has been a controversial subject of legal, social, and political discussion for a long time now. Per popular opinion, sex work has been recognised as a profession by the Supreme Court recently in a suo motto PIL on the rehabilitation of sex workers;1 though the actual legal position is not as clear.
The Court carefully treads the moral, social, and legal tightrope by opining that “voluntary sex work is not illegal,” and that sex workers “should not be arrested or penalised or harassed or victimised”. Other organs of the State do not agree.
What is the hidden message in this legal grey-zoning of sex work? How does it engage with the constructions of morality, sexuality, autonomy, violence, dignity under Article 21, and the understanding of work? Outside of the court, there are more complex debates revolving around the intersectional vulnerabilities of sex workers.
Their positionality is a function of diverse socio-economic elements, including caste, class, gender (not limited to female), community practices, migration status, educational status, access to financial and material resources, social constructions of morality, control over sexuality, the State’s attitude towards them, and their own perception of selves.
The complexity of debates can be gauged from the varied opinions on sex work – from it being a symbol of patriarchal domination, caste-based slavery, violence, and commodification of the body, to the idea that it is a form of labour, or business, throwing open the question of sexual agency.
How do the ongoing legal proceedings and the idea of “rehabilitation” of sex workers engage with these social complexities? What does the evolving discourse on male sex workers tell us about sexual labour? What is the broader picture in the making?
- Prof. (Dr.) Anuja Agrawal, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
- Dr Ashley Tellis, Independent Researcher & LGBH Activist.
- Adv. Tripti Tandon, Lawyers Collective.
- Ms. Lalita, Aakansha Samiti, Delhi.
- Moderator: Dr Sophy K.J., Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Labour Law Research and Advocacy (CLLRA), National Law University, Delhi.
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