Though socially advanced with high literacy rates, the northeastern states of Nagaland and Mizoram have an unenviable record of women’s representation in their legislatures, people in the know said on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.
A full-fledged state since 1963, Nagaland has yet to elect a woman to its legislative assembly. Mizoram got statehood in 1986, but has since elected only two women to its legislature.
“We Nagas are known for our progressive approach. As a society we have a high literacy rate and English education. Yet, the socio-political fabric favours men over women — to the extent that we are still waiting for our first female legislator,” Thomas Ngullie, an independent MLA and a former state information minister, told IANS.
“The scenario must change, but we are not sure when it will. On the International Women’s Day, we must reflect on this,” said Rose Merry, a Dimapur-based educationist.
Mizoram has a better record, but only marginally.
With 91.33 percent literacy as per 2011 Census, the state’s only female minister so far has been Lalhlimpui, who was elected to the assembly in 1987 and became a member of the cabinet of Chief Minister Laldenga, a former rebel leader.
Since Lalhlimpui, there was a 27-year drought — broken in 2014 when 35-year-old C. Lalawmpuii won the Hrangturzo assembly by-election as a Congress nominee.
One needs to mention though that Mizoram had got its first female lawmaker in 1984 when it was still a Union Territory. The lady who made it first to the legislature was K. Thansiami, who was elected on a Mizoram People’s Conference ticket.
Aizawl-based social worker R. Remruata said, “The social opposition to women getting an upper hand is so vocal that in 2011 the Congress-ruled Mizoram government had opposed the Food Security Bill that sought to make woman the head of the family in the ration cards.”
Both Mizoram and Nagaland are also perceived to have “male chauvanistic” life styles, he said.
Addressing a workshop of Mizoram legislators in 2009, the first female speaker of Lok Sabha Meira Kumar had underlined that it was high time for the state to have woman MLAs.
Nagas had by and large opposed the 33 per cent reservation for women in state legislatures in the 1990s when the demand for the quota bill was at its peak. The Naga Students’ Federation had written to the parliamentary select committee chairperson Geeta Mukherjee, saying the bill went against Naga tradition.
The Nagaland assembly had in 1997 passed a unanimous resolution moved by the then parliamentary affairs minister Zhove Lohe opposing the women’s quota bill.
In the 1970s, however, after the Emergency, Rano Shaiza was elected as united opposition’s lone Lok Sabha member from Nagaland, riding mostly on the anti-Indira Gandhi sentiment.
Shaiza, who died last year, continues to hold the record of Nagaland’s first and only woman MP.