PHLAs, transgenders, Drug Users demand public apology

Correspondent Shillong, Aug 29 | Publish Date: 8/29/2018 12:34:03 PM IST

People living with HIV and AIDS (PLHAs), transgenders and Injecting Drug Users in Meghalaya on Wednesday demanded a public apology from Chief Executive Member of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), Hispreaching Son Shylla for his “stigmatising” and “discriminatory” remarks against them. Shylla, the leader of ruling National People’s Party (NPP) had said that the proposed Khasi Social Custom of Lineage (Amendment) Bill, 2018 will be one of the ways “to prevent the indigenous people from becoming vulnerable to this dreaded disease (HIV and AIDS)”.

On July 25, the KHADC had passed the Khasi Social Custom of Lineage (Amendment) Bill, 2018 wherein it was noted that a tribal Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi as well as her offspring(s) born out of such marriage(s) shall be deemed as non-Khasi and shall lose the Khasi status and all privileges and benefits as a member of the Khasi tribe who cannot claim preferential privileges under any law.

Quoting reports, Shylla said truck drivers and migrant labourers from outside Meghalaya were the “main carriers” of HIV and AIDS while claiming that the bill would be one of the ways to prevent indigenous women from getting infected with HIV and AIDS. The NPP leader had also said that the district council does not recognise transgenders.

Aghast with Shylla’s statement against them, PLHAs, transgenders and drugs users held a news conference rebutting the statement of the politician. “We demand a ‘public apology’ from Shylla for his “stigmatising” and “discriminatory” remarks against us. If he refuses ... we will approach our specialized legal counsels and we will even take out a mass rally,” they told journalists.

“HIV did not discriminate anybody, so why is he discriminating us. You cannot attribute an epidemic to only one section (migrant workers/truck drivers from outside the state),” Meghalaya State Network of Positive People (MSNPP), Barry Kharmalki said.

“.. Every people from all walks of life, without stigmatizing any group, contribute to this epidemic. He is hurting the sentiments of the people. He is inciting fear and hatred. Are we assuming all truck drivers from outside, all non-ingenuous have HIV,” he asked.

Quoting statistics available with Anti-Retroviral Therapy Centre (ARTC) of government-run Shillong Civil hospital, Kharmalki said, the number of registered sex workers in Meghalaya is 90 out of which only three are non-indigenous and 87 are indigenous; Out of 146 truck drivers living with HIV, 17 are non-indigenous and 129 are indigenous; out of 127 Injecting Drug Users living with HIV, 52 are non-indigenous and 75 are indigenous people.

He also said that out of 3102 heterosexual cases, 624 are non-indigenous and 2478 are indigenous people of the state. 

“We are not sure as to how the proposed bill would be able to help in preventing the spread of HIV. Instead of Shylla stigmatising, he should be more sensitive. We are ready to send him books and papers to read so that he understands better,” Kharmalki said.



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