Mizoram - more women voters but no women legislators

December 9th, 2008 - 12:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Aizawl, Dec 9 (IANS) Mizoram is the only Indian state where women voters outnumber men, but all the women who stood for election to the 40-member assembly lost the race to their male rivals.Mizoram has a total electorate of 611,124. While 308,884 are women, 302,240 are men. However, very few women enter the political fray and even those who do are rarely elected to power.

Of the 206 politicians who contested the Dec 2 polls, only nine were women and none of them were elected to the state legislature. The seven women who contested the last assembly elections in 2003 had also lost.

Mizoram became a union territory in 1972 and a full-fledged state in 1986. Since 1972, there have been only three women legislators - Thanmawii (1978), K. Thansiami (1979) and Lalhlimpui (1987).

Lalhlimpui was the only woman minister in 1987. The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) had again nominated Lalhlimpui in the Hrangturzo constituency this time, while the main opposition Congress had fielded its women wing supremo Zothankimi in Aizawl West.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a conglomeration of various regional parties, fielded H. Lalhmingthangi in the Champhai South constituency against MNF chief and Chief Minister Zoramthanga.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded two women candidates, while other smaller and unrecognised parties too nominated two women candidates.

“Mizo society in pre-modern times was strictly patriarchal. The women were largely relegated to the home and denied a public role in social and religious life. This mindset is yet to change,” said Sekhar Paul, a sociologist.

The Women Welfare Front (WWF), constituted by women members of the village councils across the state, and the Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP), the state’s biggest women body, have been actively spearheading the campaign for women candidates in the state assembly polls.

“Due to our constant pressure, a record number of nine women candidates contested this election. Unfortunately, none of the female nominees were successful,” said WWF secretary Darhmingthangi.

“Both the women contestants and female electorates in the mountainous state were equally enthusiastic as their male counterparts during the electioneering,” she added.

Mizoram has achieved a literacy rate of 88.49 percent (in 2001 census), second only to Kerala’s 90.92 percent. Of a total of 431,275 women in the state, 86.13 percent are literate.

An important feature in the Mizoram polls is that 33 of the 40 newly elected legislators are aged between 45 and 74 years, and 126 of the 206 candidates who contested the polls are in the same age group.

All together, 78 candidates aged between 25 to 44 years fought the polls and only six of those in this age group were successful.

Among the three chief ministerial candidates, UDA’s 86-year-old T. Sailo was the oldest candidate. MNF supremo Zoramthanga is 64 and the Congress’ Lalthanhawla is 68.

“I think we need younger people with younger attitude so that we can keep up with the rest of the world,” said Sailothanga Sailo, a university teacher.

Among the 40 elected law makers, 60 percent are new faces and first timers.

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