Aadhaar set to expand by 900K with court order to include sex workers
Sex workers in India should be brought into the remit of government services with voter and ration cards and Aadhaar digital identities, the Supreme Court has ruled, paving the way to the inclusion of some 900,000 people in the biometric national ID system.
The New York Times writes that while prostitution is technically legal in India, women and transgender people involved in the sex trade have been broadly excluded from government services. Many were not only without work during pandemic-related lockdowns, but unable to access government relief programs due to a lack of digital ID and official recognition.
A suit had been filed by a collective of sex workers, the latest in a series of attempts to have their fundamental rights respected.
The court ordered India’s government to provide the digital identity and benefits credentials to the workers, and produce a status report within four weeks.
“It is great achievement providing citizenry identity to sex workers,” Biplab Mukheerjee, an advisor to the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, told the Times.
State governments were previously ordered to recognize sex workers as informal laborers, which qualifies them for government pandemic benefits, but the National Human Rights Commission subsequently reversed its decision.
The Aadhaar program has been criticized repeatedly for excluding groups of people already marginalized in Indian society, including the homeless, transgendered people, and minority language groups, and India’s Scheduled Castes and Tribes.