Day-2 of Autumn Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly Credit: EastMojo

Shillong: As sex workers in Meghalaya continue to demand decriminalising their job and want their voices to be heard, but lack of political parties willing to seriously take up their issues or even discuss them is most glaring.

United Democratic Party (UDP) women’s wing president Pretty Kharpyngrope said it is difficult for a political party to come out openly to take sides since it’s not viable.

Kharpyngrope’s response came after the UDP Women’s Wing held a meeting to discuss issues including demand for Inner Line Permit (ILP), border issue, inclusion of Khasi and Garo languages, railway line, and age relaxation.

During the briefing, the UDP women’s wing president was asked why pertinent issues like that of sex workers aren’t discussed and taken up.

Responding to the query, Kharpyngrope stated that in their individual capacity, there are many issues that they are involved in but at the political level to come and speak openly and speak for the party on the issue of sex workers as a whole it’s not viable.

 “Yes, individually we have got our own groups where we are working together,” mentioned Kharpyngrope.

Earlier this year, the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly witnessed a question hour on Khyndailad in Shillong city being a pick up point for sex workers or not. The question was raised by North Shillong MLA Adelbert Nongrum in the Meghalaya Assembly and had demanded the government to look into the issue.

However, the Minister in-charge of Home (Police), Lahkmen Rymbui, denied claims and said Khyndailad was a pick-up point for passengers and not sex workers.

Meghalaya Legislative Assembly Committee on Women Empowerment chairperson and MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh recalled how on the floor of House, when talking about commercial sex workers, there was a roar of laughter. Lyngdoh pointed at the kind of attitude that the political community thinks of this issue.

“They laugh away at the problem but they’re not willing to talk about it,” Lyngdoh told EastMojo.

The chairperson of the Legislative Assembly Committee on Women Empowerment said the whole narrative around sex workers in Meghalaya is getting a little blurred and biased against the interest of these individuals.

“One concern which worries me a lot of the very fact that flesh trade is now occurring in many public places, so we need to figure out what is the role of the police department in all of this. Also, because we are made to understand that certain locations particularly are pick-up locations for such activities, we need to have a system of police system,” she said.

Lyngdoh also raised concerns about welfare measures, if put in place, for people who have decided to take flesh trading or commercial sex work as a profession.

“Whether or not the government is aware, there is this huge market already available in and around major cities. We also see flesh trade on various highways, so whether or not enough work, enough combing has been done by the government to understand the complexity of entire gamut of issues related to commercial sex working or visibly violation of children’s rights who have been lured into this business,” said Lyngdoh.

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