Our Bureau

Kakinada, Aug. 23

PEDDAPURAM, a small town in East Godavari district, 20 km from here, is famous for handlooms and notorious for what is euphemistically known as the world's oldest profession. For several generations, Devadasi families have been in the profession here.

The town is suspected to be one of the major originating centre of HIV, thus, making the State second in the list of problem States. The very name of the town elicits sniggers, innuendoes and double entendre. But there is something which is not so funny - HIV, which is a serious problem in the State, making it the second in the list of problem States. Peddapuram is suspected to be one of the major originating centres of the dreaded virus.

The attempts to tackle the issue have not yielded results so far, and an exasperated MLA representing the town, Mr T. Gopalakrishna, made an appeal at a public meeting to the Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, that the profession be legalised and licences given to the women to carry on the age-old trade.

``I believe that it is the only way to curb the problem to an extent. It should be legalised and there should be regular medical check-ups and treatment,'' he pleaded.

The Chief Minister, however, did not agree with the suggestion. "The problem should be brought out into the open. It should not be pushed under the rug. There should be uninhibited debate on the issue and a campaign should be carried out to educate them. Those who frequent such houses should also be educated and sensitised. The age-old norm of monogamy should be inculcated in the youth. The husband and wife should be loyal to each other,'' he said.

He suggested that the members of women's self-help groups should take the lead in tackling the problem.

The Chief Minister visited Peddapuram and other towns in the district as a part of his `Nagara Bata' programme.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 24, 2005)
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