The economy of East Jaintia Hills was wrecked with the ban on rat-hole coal mining imposed by the National Green Tribunal in 2014 and that has forced women struggling to make ends meet into prostitution, the Congress candidate for Khliehriat said today.
Jhanika Siangshai is one of 10 female candidates the Congress is fielding in the state for the February 27 elections and Siangshai is the youngest among them at age 28.
She will be up against sitting MLA and cabinet minister Kyrmen Shylla of the United Democratic Party, National People’s Party candidate Nehlang Lyngdoh and others. Siangshai is an entrepreneur who holds two master’s degrees in English and Tourism.
During a press conference here today, Siangshai said that the number of female sex workers in her constituency is increasing but she will do her utmost to find alternative employment for them if voted into the Assembly.
“We want to get rid of it (prostitution). We know that the women need help and strength. Why they become female sex workers is due to joblessness and their children are roaming in the roads. I’ve seen people dying,” Siangshai said.
Due to the coal ban, people who were from rich families have become the poorest of the poor, she added, while school dropout rates and drug addiction are also some of the other major issues in East Jaiñtia Hills.
Being a woman has made her open to further abuse and harassment than male candidates face, she also claimed. Despite being a matrilineal society, women have been few and far between in the Assembly.
“As a mother, as a sister, I want to be a candidate for those people. I want to win the hearts of the people. This is the first time I got this opportunity to contest the elections but all the men are against me. They are trying to harass me in the newspapers,” Siangshai said.
When asked why Congress has not raised the issue of prostitution in Shillong too, All India Congress Committee media coordinator Bobbeeta Sharma said that sex work is driven by a lack of employment opportunities and the Congress has focused on jobs in its manifesto.
She added that it is very important that people should not victimise those people who have been forced into such a profession but help them to find respectful alternative forms of employment.
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