NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - India's top court has urged authorities across the country to put in place welfare schemes to provide vocational training and other kinds of help to thousands of sex workers, saying they deserved sympathy for being forced to sell their bodies because of poverty, the Times of India reported on Wednesday.
South Asia is the second largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and India sees thousands of girls being trafficked, including many from Nepal and Bangladesh.
"A sex worker is obviously not surrendering her body to a man because she loves and respects him, but just for sheer survival," a bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra was quoted as saying in the report.
"We are fully conscious of the fact that simply by our orders, the sex workers will not be rehabilitated immediately," it said, adding that: "The states should not only come out with schemes indicating therein rehabilitation of the sex workers but they should also demonstrate their commitment to the cause by coming out with some concrete results, at least in phases."
According to activists, human trafficking is one of the fastest growing transnational organised crimes in South Asia.
Over 150,000 people are known to be trafficked within South Asia every year - mostly for sex work, but also for labour, forced marriages and as part of the organ trade, according to UNODC officials. But actual numbers are likely to be higher as much of the trade is underground.
Traffickers often take advantage of impoverished communities, luring girls and young women and girls with promises of jobs as maids or nannies in wealthy households in the cities.
But, the reality is very different and girls sent to India's towns and cities often end up as involuntary sex workers, sometimes detained in a room by their employers and forced into unprotected sex with multiple partners.