‘Legalise prostitution to curb rape’

Women activists in Mizoram have come out in support of legalising prostitution in the hill state in a bid to curb rapes. ”While you have to pay a prostitute, you don’t have to pay to rape someone,” says Lalzarliani Hmar, president, Mizoram Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP), the largest women NGO in Mizoram. “Nevertheless, I think its about time we give a serious thought about legalising prostitution in Mizoram.” The demand has been supported by a large section of the people in Mizoram. “The absence of a red-light area is responsible for rapes,” says David Thangliana, chief editor of Newslink, an English daily published from Aizawl. “Its about time we empower the floating population of streetwalkers in Aizawl.”

The demand to legalise prostitution gained momentum after a recent spate of rapes involving minors in the state. While a nine-year-old girl was raped in a hotel in the Chanmari area of Aizawl, a 13-year-old mentally challenged girl was raped by the headmaster of her school. According to Hmar, the state has been reporting up to 10 cases of rape every year. However, the rape of a minor was “unheard of” in Mizoram, she said. Angry mobs went on the rampage in the capital’s Zemabawk area after the police arrested the accused in the recent child-rape case, a 33-year-old Myanmarese national. The Additional District Magistrate of Aizawl, meanwhile, had rejected the bail petition of the alleged rapist in the second incident involving a mentally challenged minor.

Crime against women has been on the increase in the North-east. About a year ago, Guwahati observed a series of bandhs in protest again the rape and killing of a child in a local night-bus office. In that case, the body of a child, Barnali Deb, was dumped in a water tank after she had been raped and murdered. “We owe these crimes to the sex and violence on the media,” said Mamoni Raisom Goswami, Jnanpith Award winner from Assam. States such as Assam, that did not traditionally have a dowry problem, have, meanwhile, begun to fall victim to the menace. A recent survey conducted by The Sentinel, a leading Guwahati-based English daily, showed that more than 50 per cent of the girls among the respondents felt insecure about marriage without dowry. Thirty per cent of the respondents said that they had a right to dowry, as girls did not get their father’s property. “Parents have failed to inculcate the right values in their children,” says Goswami.

Following the recent incident in an Aizawl hotel, Mizo organisations such as Young Mizo Association, the biggest NGO in the state, along with local residents and the Mizoram Police have begun closing down hotels in the state capital that allegedly encourage illegal activity, including prostitution, on their premises. “The primary reason for closing down such hotels was to pre-empt any untoward incident which could cause embarrassment for the locality as well as the society,” says VCP Thangpara, president of the village council of Zarkawt.

Residents have also demanded the eviction of all Myanmarese nationals staying in the Electric Veng and other areas of Aizawl. ”They are responsible for the majority of crimes in Aizawl,” said Hmar. The police, however, have taken a restrained stand on the issue of Myanmarese nationals in the state. “This is a sensitive issue,” said a senior police official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity. “We need to differentiate between the good and bad elements.” (By arrangement with Newsfile)

By David Malsawma and Kuntil Baruwa(newsfiledelhi@hotmail.com)