The Assembly committee on women empowerment has expressed its concern over the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among sex workers in Meghalaya.
Member of the committee, Himalaya M Shangpliang, said that, according to records available with the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society (MACS), there are more than 200 sex workers who have HIV/AIDS. However, this represents only 4 per cent of the total number of people in the state with the disease.
“Now you can imagine what could be the ultimate fallout,” Shangpliang told reporters. “If we have 200 sex workers with HIV we have to alert everybody. We don’t want to shame them, we would like to help them. We don’t want to stigmatise anyone.”
The Mawsynram MLA requested anybody with HIV/AIDS to meet with MACS, which is there to help them free of cost.
Today, the Assembly committee met with the district authorities of East Khasi Hills, West Jaiñtia Hills and East Jaiñtia Hills with regard to crimes against women.
Committee Chairperson, Ampareen Lyngdoh, also expressed her concern over the rise in HIV/AIDS cases in the state.
Lyngdoh said that Meghalaya has more than 5,000 people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
She informed that the committee had a detailed discussion with the police and Social Welfare Department on the need to immediately address the issue of sex workers. The government will now design a policy specifically to address HIV/AIDS in the background of sex workers, she added.
“The number of commercial sex workers in the state is high and alarming. The Social Welfare Department has already assured us that we can again meet to plan a roadmap to address this very big social evil,” the Congress legislator stated.
Lyngdoh informed that the committee was able to interact with the East Jaiñtia Hills police on issues of the atrocities against women, which, she said, appeared to be rising.
On the two high profile rape and murder cases in the district, police are on the job and have gathered plenty of evidence, the committee was told. Out of cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act in the district, 28 have been charge-sheeted, 20 are pending and nine are in the final report stage. There have also been eight murders where six of the victims were women and two were children, she added.
Police from West Jaiñtia Hills, on the other hand, gave a satisfactory report into the murder of a young woman, whose body was discovered on Sunday.
Lyngdoh said that police are confident that they will be able to have enough evidence to charge a suspect, but investigations are still ongoing.
However, the Chairperson said that what was worrisome in West Jaiñtia Hills is the sharp increase in teenage pregnancy.
“An alarming 500-plus pregnancies were recorded in the month of March. It’s a huge indicator of how things are not going right in the community,” Lyngdoh said.
The committee members will travel to West and East Jaiñtia Hills on April 21-23 to see for themselves the situation in the two districts.