Assembly’s Committee on Women Empowerment has asked the state government to come up with a new scheme to rehabilitate commercial sex workers and to address the issue of HIV/AIDS which is increasing at an alarming rate in the state.
Addressing media persons after a meeting held on Wednesday, Chairperson of the Committee Ampareen Lyngdoh said there are 5,000 plus cases of HIV/AIDS in Meghalaya which indicated that it is increasing very alarmingly.
She said the committee has also discussed with the police department as well as the social welfare department on the need to immediately address the issue of commercial sex workers.
“The departments have given us the assurance that the government will now design a policy specific to address the issue of HIV/AIDS in the background of commercial sex workers in the state of Meghalaya,” Lyngdoh, who is also East Shillong MLA said.
Stating that 3 out of every 1000 pregnant women are testing HIV positive in the state, the chairperson said, “(This) is a big shocker for all of us and government has to now become aggressive in its redressal this HIV/AIDS agenda.”
Asked, she said that the committee has asked for a study to be conducted the reasons for such a situation being faced by pregnant women.
Mawsynram legislator Himalaya Shangpliang as member of the committee said that the issue related to prevalence of HIV/AIDS among sex workers in East Khasi Hills district is a real concern.
He informed as per the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society (MACS) project director, there are more than 200 sex workers who are HIV positive.
“Now if there are 200 sex workers in the city having HIV, now we have to alert everybody that this is a time that we should be very careful. We would not like to shame them, we would like to help them, we would not like to stigmatize anyone like that but if there are such people who are carrying HIV in them, I would request them to volunteer and go and meet the MACS who are ready to help as all medications for HIV patients are free of cost from the government,” the MLA said.
Asserting the need to rehabilitate these sex workers, Shangpliang said that the committee has discussed at length with the Principal Secretary in-charge Social Welfare on what are the modalities that the government is coming up to help these sex workers to come to mainstream.
“The committee has suggested the department to frame a state scheme which would provide a package for sex workers so that they can leave this job and reform themselves into a human being of the state with responsibilities,” he said.
According to him, the existing scheme being provided by the Government of India to rehabilitate sex workers for five years is not functioning well in the state as the funds flow are very slow from the Centre.
“If these women are given a particular package and a scheme I am sure they are ready to take it,” Shangpliang said while informing that the committee would again review the matter after two months.