New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and state governments to urgently provide food, monetary assistance, and other basic amenities to sex workers, who have been rendered jobless because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Also Read - International Sex Workers Day 2020: Problems And Challenges Sex Workers Face Everywhere

Appearing for an NGO, senior advocate Anand Grover argued that a survey among 1.2 lakh sex workers in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana found that 96 per cent of sex workers had lost their source of earning in the pandemic.

The bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta asked the Centre if it can exercise its powers under the National Disaster Management Act and provide them with immediate assistance.

”They are under severe distress now, something urgent has to be done. This deals with the survival of lakhs of people…You [Centre and state governments] should do something without waiting for our directions, ” Justice Rao said.

The Court also said that sex workers across the country should be given food without insisting on identity proofs, adding that that relief measures should not be restricted to just those who approach authorities for help, but efforts should also be made to reach out to those in need.

The judges’ directions came after Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, collective of sex workers, approached the apex court to support the sex workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed due to the pandemic.

”After the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, 2020, there was no work and no income. During April and May, sex workers scrimped through their meagre savings or took loans at exorbitant interest rates to survive. Most were dependent on the charity provided by individuals and philanthropic organizations,” the application said, according to Hindustan Times.

The court has now posted the matter for hearing on September 29 and asked state governments to come ready with their proposals to address the concerns of sex workers.