For scores of women sex workers in the Christian-majority state of Mizoram, a church supported night shelter run here has turned out to be their only ray of hope.
"The night shelter is aimed at helping sex workers return at night to a secure home. Most women who took to prostitution were driven out of their homes," said Major Lalngaihawmi, who is in charge of the Salvation Army-run home.
The Mizoram AIDS Control Society helps the Salvation Army - an integral part of the church working towards the advancement of religious, educational and other charitable missions - in running the shelter.
"Our home is open at night for any woman, especially for the displaced and those who do not have proper shelter to sleep. They can stay at the home as long as they want for free," Lalngaihawmi said.
An average of 10 women come to the night shelter daily, besides seeking help for starting a new life. Some are willing to return to their own homes.
"This home is more than a counselling centre. We not only try to make these women come to the mainstream of life, but also do reconciliation work with their families to accept them once again," Lalngaihawmi said.
"We never criticise or look down on any woman, nor do we turn away those who have faced the courts and numerous humiliations. We genuinely try to help them return to a normal life," the Salvation Army official said.
During the day, the home acts as a drop-in centre for sex workers.
"We have three peer educators who provide information and spread awareness about implications of drug addiction and sex-related diseases," senior home in-charge Lalnunmawii said.
A 35-year-old mother of two who lived in the home is now a reformed woman.
"This shelter and the counselling made me get rid of my horrible night life. Now I am looking forward to starting a small business in my village," said the woman who did not want to be named.
According to various estimates, there are over 1,000 commercial women sex workers in Mizoram, including around 300 in Aizwal, a majority of them divorcees and drug addicts.