Human Rights Issues

NHRC advisory on Sex Work


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NHRC

Mains level : Sex workers

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recognised sex workers as informal workers in their advisory on “Human Rights of Women in the context of COVID 19”.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Recognizing sex workers as informal workers is a myopic and moralistic objection of human rights activism. Discuss.

What is the NHRC advisory?

  • The NHRC in an effort to secure the rights of all excluded and marginalised women included sex workers as informal workers in their advisory on ‘Women at Work’.
  • The advisory asked officials to recognise sex workers as informal workers and register them so they are able to avail the benefits of a worker.
  • The Ministries have been asked to issue temporary documents so that the sex workers like all other informal workers, can access all welfare measures and health services.

Why is the advisory important?

  • The advisory included sex workers among groups that they were considered as part of vulnerable and marginal sections of society thereby consider them as citizens who are deserving of the protection of human rights.
  • To do this, NHRC had sought expert advice, and both the government and constitutional bodies had stood by the protection of the human rights and dignity of sex workers.
  • For many, it is a welcome move and an important milestone in achieving constitutional rights for sex workers.

Legality check of such work

  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act — lays down that the institution of prostitution is illegal.
  • Sex is either a consensual engagement between two adults or it is rape.
  • Commercial sex, if engaged through any institutional process is illegal and liable for prosecution. Hence the Government of India never recognised sex work.

Criticisms of this advisory

  • The feminists who wish to end sex slavery are critical of this NHRC’s move.
  • There has not been a single instance where a woman has voluntarily gone into prostitution.
  • Therefore they have regarded this as an absolute failure to not provide viable options to women to engage in productive work.

Back2Basics: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • The NHRC is a statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA).
  • This act defines Human Rights as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.


  • Proactively or reactively inquire into violations of human rights by the government of India or negligence of such violation by a public servant
  • Protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation


The NHRC consists of The Chairman and Four members (excluding the ex-officio members)

  • A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, or, One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions serve as ex officio members.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.