Model Question and Answers for APSC | Despite being frontrunners in women's empowerment, northeast Indian states have so far failed to provide adequate political space for their women. Discuss.
Despite being frontrunners in women's empowerment, northeast Indian states have so far failed to provide adequate political space for their women. Discuss.
Ans: Since Nagaland got its statehood in 1963, it was yet to get a woman MLA in the 60-member assembly before 2023 elections. Not that women have not contested for election but they have never been voted to power. This year, only four women were in the fray out of 183 candidates for the February 27 assembly elections. Two of them won, finally breaking into male bastion. The entire region has seen lower participation of women in positions of power historically.
Lopsided political participation:
• Even in the political sphere, all the states see a massive participation of women voters and a plausible active engagement of women activists at grassroots level.
• Even in matriarchal Meghalaya, while women volunteers are extensively used for canvassing, they are not encouraged to participate in politics as candidates.
• As one moves upwards in the political ladder, women become scant and it is true for all the states of the region.
In fact the gap between the number of women in the social sphere and political decision making centers is so stark that one is left wondering about the extent of women empowerment in the region.
Reasons for low representation of women in politics:
• Customary Laws: Leaving aside mainstream assembly elections, women are kept out of traditional councils in most of these states. Tribal bodies in Nagaland led by Naga Hoho which has no women, opposed staunchly the 33% reservation for women on the excuse that it goes against Naga customary laws.
• Ethnic Divide: The paternalistic baggage of ethnicity, and hence the ethnic divide within the north eastern states, has been an impediment in solidarity of women voters across ethnicities
• Public-Private Gender Divide: Within matrilineal Meghalaya, traditional socio-political institutions like the Dorba-Shnong (village council) do not allow women to become village heads— the Rangbah- Shnong (headman) can only be a man. There is a clear disconnect between the matrilineal space of a house and that of public institutions of governance.
• Patriarchal Bias In Political Parties: There is an inbuilt patriarchal bias in political parties which are yet to break away from the age old concept of public/private divide. In the Northeast, most women candidates fight as independents showing the utmost disdain of the mainstream political parties.
• Perceived Low Winnability: No party gives enough tickets to women candidates harping on lack of winnability. Example while Irom Sharmila was the Iron Lady of Manipur and enjoyed extensive support, her political acceptability was poor.
• Gender Discrimination: Women are given tickets in constituencies where the chances of winning are already thin. Women are also given tickets as the last option. And no party lags behind in this blatant gender discrimination.
• Violence And Insurgency: In Manipur violence and insurgency is also cited as causes for keeping women away from electoral politics.
A society which claims to stand up for gender equality cannot keep the political arena out of women’s reach. If women are kept outside decision making bodies, then gender equality in the region will continue to be superficial and limited to the exotic and not translate to the improvement of the material conditions of women across the board.