Meghalaya Home Minister assures govt support for rehabilitating sex workers
Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui, on Friday, assured government support for rehabilitating sex workers in the state.
“It is the duty of the state to rehabilitate sex workers and come to their aid to retrieve them from prostitution and to rehabilitate them by lending them a helping hand to lead a life with dignity… and self-employment through provisions of education, financial support and developed marketing facilities… as some major avenues in this behalf,” Rymbui said while referring to an order passed by the Supreme Court in 1997.
“The need of the hour is to create awareness among female sex workers (FSWs) of the risk of human trafficking, awareness on their rights and duties, to lead a life of dignity and respect, and to sensitise society, localities and our youths that this kind of thing is not good for society,” he said.
However, Rymbui stood by the reply he had given on the floor of the House on March 10 to a question raised by North Shillong legislator Adelbert Nongrum on whether the Home Minister knew that Khyndai Lad (commercial hub) had become a “pickup point” of sex workers in Shillong.
“My reply was no and, I stand by my reply,” Rymbui said.
Explaining the scenario in Meghalaya, the Home Minister said the state government, through Meghalaya AIDS Control Society (MACS), had been working towards rehabilitating sex workers.
“MACS is implementing the Target intervention (TI) projects for FSWs through different NGOs to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and also to provide other health services,” he said.
The services include:
Provision of drop-in centres where safe space is provided for a targeted population for counselling, health check-up and access to contraceptives.
Counselling services provided at DIC or in the field through Counsellors.
Advocacy with stakeholders to make them understand the need for TI services.
Counselling to FSWs facing crisis because of during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Free food and other facilities like masks, medicines and sanitisers.
Besides this, Rymbui informed that a one-time free ration was provided to FSWs registered with MACS by the State Government.
“MACS along with TI NGOs collaborated with the respective Deputy Commissioner’s offices to provide ration to 79 SFWs in East Khasi Hills, 44 in West Jaintia Hills, 44 in East Jaintia Hills and 16 in Ri Bhoi. All of them belong to the low economic background or with no ration cards,” he said.
The Home Minister also informed that the number of active FSWs in the state registered with different NGOs is 1,513.
The active population of FSWs as of February 2021 is:
East Khasi Hills - 371 (Name of NGO- Manbha Foundation)
West Jaintia Hills - 380 (Myntdu community social welfare organisation)
East Jaintia Hills - 157 (Mih Myntdu community social welfare association)
Ri Bhoi - 305 (KJPA SELDA)
South Garo Hills - 300 (ADIL Gandhian Society)
Rymbui also listed down several measures taken by the State Government to tackle the situation.
“To prevent the use of hotels for trafficking, SOPs were issued to hotels by the police,” he said.
a) Photos of all visitors need to be sent at the time of check-in to the police daily.
b) All hotels have to submit a daily report stating the status of CCTV.
c) Well-trained private security personnel should be engaged by the management from the registered private security agency.
d) Guests should not be allotted a room without identity proof.
e) No juvenile shall be given accommodation unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
f) No illegal activities as defined in the POCSO/Immoral traffic Prevention Act and other act prevalent shall be carried out in a hotel, guest house or resort.
g) No occupant shall be allowed to use the hotel for residential purposes and reside for an extended period.
h) All Officers-in-charge of the respective police stations and Inspectors-in-charge of Beat Houses and Outposts in East Khasi Hills are to monitor the situation.
Earlier, North Shillong legislator Adelbert Nongrum requested the State Government to conduct a study into the matter and to come up with a clear cut policy as well as a practical solution.