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Mon, 22 Jul 2019

Northeast Today

Consultation Programme on Reproductive Rights And Laws Begins

Consultation Programme on Reproductive Rights And Laws Begins
November 29
14:00 2018

NET Bureau

Violence against women in families, right of access to healthcare for women; rights of commercial sex workers and people living with HIV were some of the issues that were discussed during a recent meeting in Kohima concerning reproductive rights and laws.

A two-day consultation on reproductive rights and laws, which was organised by the Nagaland unit of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), began in Kohima on Thursday.

The introductory address was delivered by Kezhosano Kikhi, advocate. She said that the network provides legal support to vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of the society. She said it deals with issues related to children; violence against women; right to food, and other welfare issues.

Also, Vitono Haralu, director of nongovernmental organisation Pathfinder, spoke on the topic ‘violence against in Nagaland vis-a-vis forced sterilisation.’ Speaking about violence against women in the family, particularly in the Naga community, she said that ‘we tend to overlook violence in the family because of the existing social structure that we follow.’ She spoke about the level of gender discrimination that is prevalent in the Naga society owing to the patriarchal system ‘since time immemorial.’

Haralu recounted experiences about the reality of discrimination and violence against women in the society. Recounting her experience at home, she queried: “Why do women had to clean up the mess the brother had made when nobody cleans our mess?” Despite violence at home, it all comes down to normalising the situation with the idea of ‘boys will always be boys’ and ‘girls are supposed to change,’ at the end of the day, Haralu said. ‘Nagas love compromising and hushing off that everything is okay,’ she remarked.

Customary law Demoralises

As a victim herself, Haralu said, customary laws are demoralising as women do not feel a belonging. It is a fact that customary law is important in regulating the society, but it should evolve and not be structured, she said. Likewise, law enforcement agencies lack sensitivity and empathy, she said.

Further, Vitono Haralu pointed out that “social status” was the main reason why women are barred from speaking for themselves. Financial dependence is another reason why women don’t speak up ‘because she usually neither has the space to evolve nor the support system once they come out of their home.’ Some of the ways she suggested would prevent violence against women include early intervention at schools; conducting programmes on sex education and not treating the biology class as a ‘quick flip.’ Everything starts from home, she said. Haralu mentioned that beyond the 2010 era couples were catching up with the idea of small family.

The administrator of the legislators’ Forum on AIDS Hukatoli Chophy also spoke. She gave a presentation on the topic of ‘access of contraceptive services for sex workers in Nagaland.’ She admitted that the public including educated individuals have limited knowledge in this area. Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world, she said.

Acceptance of commercial sex workers in a state like Nagaland is “unimaginable” and “taboo.” Similarly, access to reproductive health services in the state is a “far cry,” Chophy said. She reminded that access to any public health centre was one’s right. She has urged people to claim what is necessary healthcare. She talked also about the importance of sex education. She said that that home should not shy away from such topics. Most girls at brothels do not know how to use condoms and other contraceptive services; the level of such knowledge is almost zero, she said.

Chophy highlighted the plight of healthcare amenities at public centres too. She said that medicines for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are almost out of stock out most of the time. Almost 90 to 99 % of HIV in Nagaland is transmitted through the sexual route, she said.

The forum administrator also spoke about the dilemma of commercial sex workers when faced with law enforcing authorities such as the police. There are many instances of the police trying to take advantage of them and even to an extent to raping them, Hukatoli Chophy said. As a matter of fact, their rights are denied and they are being manipulated in many ways, she said.

Other topics of the day’s event included right to food; core concerns of food security in the state; healthcare, rights and relevant issues; problems faced by people living with HIV; Public Interest Litigation. The event will also deliberate on topics such as sexual rights of female drug users in Nagaland; legal abortion; child related issues; right to education etc., by various resource persons.

SOURCE: Eastern Mirror

Image Credit: Eastern Mirror


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