The Telegraph
Sunday , March 16 , 2014
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Naga academic rues women’s status

(Extreme right) Rosemary Dzuvichu at an event in Calcutta. File picture

New Delhi, March 15: The popular perception that women in the Northeast are empowered is a myth, a Naga academic has said.

Nagaland University teacher Rosemary Dzuvichu, in a presentation yesterday as part of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library’s Interrogating Social Justice series, argued that women in the Northeast, considered emancipated by many outside the region because of their western clothes and English-speaking skills, were in reality victims of a patriarchal system that left them out of decision-making bodies and democratic institutions.

“There are no women in tribal hohos (councils). Many outside Nagaland think that the Naga Hoho is all-inclusive, but it doesn’t represent women,” Dzuvichu said.

Nagaland doesn’t have panchayati raj and the traditional village councils exclude women completely. Dzuvichu said women’s role is absent in village development boards except through NGO efforts of co-opting them in micro-finance schemes.

Except for Rano Shaiza, the sole woman MP from Nagaland in 1977, the state has never had a woman MLA or MP. A few years ago, Dzuvichu and senior journalist Monalisa Changkija had attempted to contest polls but a patriarchal political class nipped their idea in the bud.

Dzuvichu’s arguments assume significance in the run-up to the general election.

Her presentation also comes days before a final hearing in the Supreme Court on a case challenging a September 2012 Nagaland Assembly resolution, not allowing women’s reservation and participation in local bodies.

The Joint Action Committee for Women’s Reservation had moved Gauhati High Court, which ruled in its favour last year. The Nagaland government then moved a division bench of the court, which upheld its argument that women’s participation would violate customary laws.

The women’s committee then moved the apex court and the case is listed for final hearing on March 26.

“If the apex court ruling goes against women’s reservation, it will be cited for years in the courts of law that customary laws prevail over gender justice,” Dzuvichu said.

Contrary to their marginalisation from active participation in decision-making bodies and democratic institutions, it is women who take the forefront in campaigning for male politicians in Nagaland.

Pointing out the paradox, Dzuvichu went on to describe the role of women in peace-making in Nagaland that still reels under India’s longest surviving militant movement. Women’s exclusion from the peace negotiations and absence of women’s issues in political negotiations of peace raises serious concerns of gender justice and the future of Naga women, she said.