‘Issue of Article 371, women reservation self made by Nagas’

Our Correspondent
Kohima | November 14


The contentious Article 371(A) of the Constitution and women reservation in Nagaland, which has been made into a burning issue is self made by the Naga people without any legal standing.



This was stated by retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice H K Sema while speaking on the topic “Article 371A and Women reservation – the Naga debate” during a training of Trainers on Women’s Rights and Peace jointly organized by Department of English, Nagaland University and Naga Mothers’ Association at SIRD Hall here today.



Lamenting as to how Article 371(A) has affected the constitutional mandate of women reservation in urban local bodies election in the State, Justice Sema clarified that Article 371(A) begins with the point “No act of Parliament will apply in the State of Nagaland i) Religious and Social practices of the Nagas (ii) Naga customary practice and procedure (iii) Administration of civil and criminal justice involving decision according to Naga customary law and (iv) Transfer and ownership of land and its resources.


Women reservation is a legislation passed by the Nagaland Assembly and not an Act of the Parliament as empowered by the Constitution, he pointed out. Referring to the last sentence of 371(A) which states “provided the Nagaland Legislative Assembly pass resolution to that effect,” Sema said enough power has been granted to the State Assembly to make law by the Constitution.


He also sought to point out that there is no part in the Article 371(A) that prohibits women reservation in the urban local bodies. According to Sema, it is men chauvinism that Nagas are opposing women reservation. He said even the Supreme Court had observed that in a democratic country like ours there is no place for ‘men chauvinism’ and that is the law.


Citing clause of Equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, he said “it means equal treatment in equal circumstances.” Stating that in Naga society which is traditionally bound and patriarchal, no one can say that man and woman are equal, he therefore felt that “reservation is necessary” to allowing women to raise their voice.”


“We draw examples from the past but the past cannot diktat the future as the future belongs to the younger generation,” he noted.


Further, expressing that there was a time when Nagas didn’t have any ‘ism’ but now there is an increasing tendency to tilt towards ‘ism’ leading to public suffering, Sema urged upon the Naga people to pledge as Naga and not along tribal lines.


Head of English Department, Nagaland University, Dr Rosemary Dzuvichu while dwelling on “Women’s rights and equality – the Naga context” said Naga women’s movement started since the 1950s, when the Naga issue started building with voices of freedom.


“When we talk of women’s movement, they were literally talking about stopping the war, combating violence and speaking about peace and there were absolutely no time for Naga women to think and articulate their own rights.”


But the present movement is about women’s right and their place in decision making and have reservation, she said.
Naga society talks about being democratic and gender equitable while the men always want to define Naga society as “very egalitarian,” but we must remember that both Naga men and women defines democracy in a different context, she explained.


“When we see democracy through the eyes of woman, who has been conditioned by patriarchy and customary and family laws, there is total change of the definition of democracy,” Dr Rosemary added.


“Today the issue is can the Naga women sit in the decision making bodies, tribal hohos, village judiciary and urban local bodies,” she said while also lamenting that even if Naga men says that there is no difference between men and women, yet women are bound with all kinds of conditions, threat and violence in the Naga society.


Other topics covered during the training include – Women and Peace by Social activist Niketou Iralu, Sexual harassment at workplace – Dr Visakhono Hibo, Women’s reproductive and health rights – Advocate Kezhosano Kikhi and Women and Mental health – Clinical Psychologist Lovika.


Women in NE disadvantaged under customary practices


SHILLONG, NOVEMBER 14 (IANS): National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma on Tuesday said Women in the northeast are disadvantaged under the customary practices.


Addressing a meeting at the North East Council on recommendations of the study on social, economic and political empowerment of women in northeastern states, Sharma said: “Women are not seen participating politically. There are few women MLAs and (women) MPs are even rarer. Though economically women are seen working in every sphere, they still are being deprived of the right to land,” she said.


Meanwhile, the report stated that many women of the region are engaged in agricultural activities and earn less than their male counterparts.


“They work in fields which they do not own, because landed property can be owned by only the men in their families. Women working in family fields do not earn any wages for their labour. Here also, it is the man who is in control of the management and income from such farming,” the report said.


It also noted that women cannot own immovable property, like ancestral fields and homesteads, according to prevalent customary laws of many tribes of the region.


“Some women who have no land of their own – widows or single mothers — often go out of their homes to work as daily labourers at construction sites or even in other people’s farms, where they earn less than their male counterparts for the same kind of work and hours,” the report said.


It also revealed that women in the northeast are politically lagging behind their counterparts elsewhere in the country.


“The toughest hurdle being the continued sway of tribal customary laws which intrinsically exclude women’s entry and participation in governance starting from the village levels,” it stated.


“In an already deeply entrenched patriarchal set-up through which these people had been governing themselves, the newly protected and almost un-touchable customary laws only hardened such a mindset.”


As a result, women have not been able to make much headway in wresting any political power for themselves in local, state and centre politics too, it said.


“Ironically, the very same provision which protects the traditional rights of the people, failed to take into account the human, civil and political rights of women of these states – rights which are enshrined and guaranteed in the same Constitution.”


The report also stated that it would only be fair to assume that along with the traditional bias against women entering politics, lack of economic power of women in general has acted as a strong deterrent for many “would-be-legislators”.