The petitioners in the present case, Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights (BSEHR) and several other NGOs filed a petition following an incident leading to the alleged illegal, forcible and violent ousting of sex-workers from their residence by the local administration and the police, to address the whole issue for protection and status of fundamental rights of citizens including women in prostitution and upholding the rule of law. The petitioners stated that on 23rd July, 1999 at night and in early morning on 24th July 1999 approximately at 3.00/4.00 AM while inmates of the area of Nimtali and Tanbazar, Narayanganj were asleep the police raided and barged into their rooms and without giving them any opportunity to change or organize, dragged them out, abused and beat them and pushed them and their children into the waiting buses and were subsequently kept in detention in Kashimpur Vagrant Home contrary to the provision of Vagrancy Act, 1950.
The respondents denied all the averments made by the petitioners and stated the Constitution, the Penal Code and the Children Act, 1974 and other laws, neither permitted prostitution nor prostitution related activities. Shifting of sex workers who were found vagrants was carried out through the process of law by producing them before the concerned Magistrate who declared some of them vagrants under the law and being satisfied were sent to the Vagrant Home.
The court stated that basically women in prostitution found in brothels are undoubtedly the ill-fated victims of circumstances, as some are kidnapped into it, some become victim of pretended love and then brought into brothel, some are brought there with allurement of job, some being frustrated not being able to obtain a job, and some are the off-springs of the prostitutes.
The court referred to relevant laws such as, Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933 (Bengal Act VI of 1933); Nari-o-Shishu Nirjaton Ain, 1995; Vagrancy Act, 1950; and Criminal Procedure Code.
Referring to the Indian case of Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation reported in AIR 1986 (SC) 180, the court held that the inmates of Tanbazar and Nimtali have a protected right to life and livelihood i.e. important facet of the right to life is the right to livelihood and the easiest way of depriving a person of this right to life would be deprive him of means of livelihood to the point of abrogation. Thus, the said inmates upon their wholesale eviction from Tenbazar and Nimtali have as well been deprived of their livelihood, which amounts to deprivation of the right to life making the action unconstitutional and illegal. Thus, the fundamental right of the citizen to be secured in his home against entry has definitely been breached/ violated in the instant case by the interested quarters in presence of the police, if not the police themselves were the violators. Such actions on the part of police treating some of the evicted inmates of Tanbazar and Nimtali brothels as Vagrants has been done without any lawful authority and thus forcing them illegally into Kashimpur Vagrant Home.
As the sex-workers are now confined in Vagrant Home illegally terming them to be Vagrant, the Court directed the respondents to release them forthwith so as to enable them to go on their own according to their choice, which is their fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution. All the respondents should co-ordinate themselves with UNDP or other connected organizations formulating and adopting a durable rehabilitation scheme to start with a pilot scheme for the purpose of the sex workers of the country with a sense of security and then the government should come out with legislation prohibiting prostitution and or soliciting prostitution and strictly enforce the laws in solemn observation of the constitutional obligation adopting effective measures to prevent prostitution.
Court: High Court Division (Supreme Court)
Date of decision: 2000 - 03 – 14
Writ Petition filed by an NGO - Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights (BSEHR) against forcible eviction of sex workers from their residence by the District Administration with the help of the police and taking some of them to the Vagrant Home for rehabilitation.
Constitution of Bangladesh, 1972 (Articles 11, 31 & 32); Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1933 ( Section 4)
High Court Division (Supreme Court)
53 DLR (2001)