Northeast women’s panels want 33 percent reservation

February 9th, 2012 - 11:04 am ICT by IANS  

Shillong, Feb 9 (IANS) Saying there is gender discrimination in the northeast when it comes to politics, women’s commissions in the states of the region have pressed for 33 percent reservation for women in assemblies and parliament.

The representation of women in the region - which has a population of around 38.5 million (2001 census) - is a mere 4.5 percent, with only 21 women legislators in the seven legislative assemblies that have a total strength of 466.

“There is gender discrimination when it comes to women in politics. We had tried our best to convince our men to allow women to take part in the electoral battle, but all in vain,” Mizoram State Women’s Commission chairperson Lalnipuii told IANS on phone.

There is no representation of the fairer sex in the Mizoram and Nagaland assemblies.

“This (no women’s representation) is very discouraging even though women are good, if not better, than men,” she said.

“To see more women in the assemblies and parliament, I think we need to come together as the state women’s commissions and ask for the implementation of 33 percent reservation,” Lalnipuii added.

The Kohima bench of the Gauhati High Court had directed the Nagaland government to hold elections to municipal and town councils in the state along with strict implementation of 33 percent women’s reservation during polls.

Nagaland State Women’s Commission chairperson Sano Vamuzo told IANS, “There is strong opposition against women taking part in electoral politics, but there is a silver lining for us after the court’s order directed the Nagaland government to implement the 33 percent women’s reservation during the municipal and town council polls.”

The women’s reservation bill seeking 33 percent reservation has been hanging fire in parliament for want of a consensus among political parties. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha but not in the Lok Sabha.

Assam leads in the number of women legislators in the northeast, with 14 of them in the 126-member house. Of them, two are ministers.

Tripura has three women legislators and Arunachal Pradesh two. Meghalaya, which is known for its matrilineal society, has only one woman legislator. Ironically, the state has more women voters than men.

Manipur, which went to the polls recently, had one woman legislator - Okram Landhoni - in the outgoing assembly. Landhoni is also the wife of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.

“Though the social status of women in Arunachal Pradesh is high, there is a need for women to also have a say in the democratic setup. Therefore, it is important that a joint effort should be made to ask for the bill to be implemented,” said Gumri Ringu, chairperson of the Arunachal Pradesh state women’s commission.

“Since half of the population in the northeast comprises women, I think we need to have 50 percent reservation in the legislatures,” Ringu said.

Echoing her counterparts in the region, Ipetombi Devi, chairperson of the Manipur State Women’s Commission, told IANS, “There is a need that women from the region should come together and fight jointly for 33 percent reservation so that we can get more women representation in the assemblies and parliament.”

(Raymond Raplang Kharmujai can be contacted at rrkharmujai@gmail.com)

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