Last week, Julius Dorphang, an independent MLA of Meghalaya’s Mawhati constituency, was arrested in Guwahati after being charged with raping a 14-year-old girl and his involvement in a sex racket. This led to widespread protests in the state, revived debates about trafficking in Meghalaya, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
Reports have accused officials in the Meghalaya government of evading the issue by refraining from commenting on it. Apparently, the guest house where the young girl was assaulted is owned by a relative of HDR Lyngdoh, State Home Minister, and political parties as well as women’s rights organisations are demanding his resignation.
But there appears to be growing concern about women’s safety seeming more fraught across the state: there were 245 reported crimes against women in the state last year, which included rape, assault, and trafficking. Some of the discussions around the subject are slanted in ways that are perhaps unhelpful. For instance, articles have focussed on the dangers of pornography, and reports have also pointed out the use of the odd phrase ‘child business’ as a euphemism for child trafficking or rape in the state. Circling around the crux of the issue isn’t going to get us anywhere, but the January 11 rally in Shillong, which had a turn-out of 500 people and called out the silence of public leaders on the Dorphang case, might go some way towards altering this.