Sex workers' community of Shillong shoots 'open letter'
The Rot Association Of Meghalaya (RAM), a sex worker community in Shillong, on Friday shot an open letter condemning the “humiliating” comments of MLAs on the floor of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly recently.
On March 10, North Shillong legislator Adelbert Nongrum had raised a question during the ongoing budget session on Khyndai Lad (Police Bazaar) becoming a “pick-up” point of sex workers in Shillong, to which the Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui stated that he was unaware of such activities being carried out at the commercial hub.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE ASSEMBLY
READ THIS OPEN LETTER BY RAM
You probably don't have any idea of who we are. Many of us have children; while some are divorced or widowed. A prostitute is not by definition an alcoholic, a drug user, or a victim of a trafficking gang. Some of us even have diplomas. We do not do this by pleasure, contrary to popular belief. And we do not do anything wrong; we only satisfy our needs but we are not against the law. Things were fine until a clever comment by one of our "respectable lawmakers" who stated that "Khyndai Lad has become a pick-up point of sex workers" hit the papers.
To be exposed to the view of everyone, as in a market; to be publicly humiliated; the establishment of a hostile and very tense climate; discrimination from many politicians who do not respect the limits of their job; a lack of consultation from the authorities; the "don't care anymore" attitude of our human rights crusaders and the fact that we are not let to do our work at ease, which has strong consequences on our daily life; that our situation is worse than before and no alternative has been offered to us. We have decided to write this letter because our words are not shared anywhere. Our voices not heard. Though we are the first concerned, we are barely considered as human beings in this affair.
What makes us furious is not the state of our situation, but the fact that our state government is not making any effort to do anything to make it better for us. The fact that political leaders like Adelbert Nongrum, HM Shangpliang, Lahkmen Rymbui and Ampareen Lyngdoh aren't working together to solve our problems infuriates us, sex workers — as it should. Adelbert Nongrum’s rather naïve hope that he could change the atmosphere in Khyndai Lad and get warring sides working together was part of his enormous appeal. But instead of taking the hint that constructive compromise would be popular, politicians like him have spent most of their energy blaming each other for obstructionism.
For once in their miserable tenure, MLAs could help their fellow MLAs understand the difference between dialogue and debate and the importance of dialogue in solving problems — interpersonal problems or political ones or whatever. In a debate, you are trying to win. In a dialogue, you are trying to find common ground. Part of the experience of being at an Assembly should be to practice understanding what another person’s point of view is. If lawmakers were encouraged to practice dialogue frequently, we would train a whole generation of policy problem-solvers.
All this may sound hard, but without an effort to get the political system working thoughtfully again, we will miss the opportunity to enjoy a potentially great economy with rising prosperity. We prefer to remain anonymous. An interview is possible if the interview remains anonymous. For 10 years, the Rot Association of Meghalaya (RAM) has offered support to fellow prostitutes but we are still unknown to many. Sex work will always exist, and it is irresponsible to avoid making progressive change. The way to protect disadvantaged citizens like us and tackle the deeper problem is simple — decriminalise our work. Decriminalise sex work!