Right Turn

The decision of the Nagaland State Cabinet agreeing in principal to constitute a State Commission for Women (SCW) should be welcomed as it will cover wide aspects of areas relating to the safeguard of women under the constitution and other laws and will no doubt focus attention on other relevant issues concerning women in Nagaland. While the news of a SWC may bring cheer for many people, there is also some form of skepticism coming mostly from the women group themselves who would rather wait for the actual implementation to take effect. Agreeing in principal is one thing and adopting the decision (in actuality) is quite another, seems to be the common restrain. 

For those who have been closely following the stated positions of political parties on the issue of women’s empowerment, the earlier stand taken by the Neiphiu Rio government (turning down the proposal for setting up of a SCW) had followed a similar argument (that the status of its women is much better off and does not conform to the general perception of women’s status in India) taken by the then SC Jamir led Congress government which had rejected 33% reservation of seats in the State. 

It has to be said that the argument given about the enviable status of Naga women is itself ill conceived and completely negates the true picture and something that official statistics have tended to muffle either intentionally or for want of more in-depth study. One only hopes that this turnaround of the government (to set up the SWC) had less to do with ‘pressures’ brought to bear on it but rather a well measured decision to come closer to reality while drawing its premise on women specific policy initiatives.   

In an Editorial ‘Escape Route’ written last year, the government turning down the proposal for setting up of a SCW was critically questioned. “While it is accepted—though it cannot be ruled out completely—that dowry system, child marriage and caste distinction are absent in Nagaland, can the government also vouch that other social evils such as domestic violence, rape, prostitution, sexual harassment, gender discrimination are not present? As such any claim that atrocities against women are relatively unknown in the State is nothing but absurd and misleading.

Since women constitute almost 50% of the State’s population, efforts at nation building would have to take into consideration in full measure and proper perspective, the role and contribution of women in the noble task of the State’s development. Much more attention also needs to be given for inclusion of women in decision making and their participation at the policy formulation levels.

Coming back to the decision to set up the SCW, the next logical step for the government should be to bring the necessary legislation in the State Assembly in order to give the proposed SCW both the legal and political mandate to get on with its assigned duty. The necessary mechanism should now be put in place without wasting anymore time and for this a task force can be constituted to look into the entire gamut of issues including identifying the probable women candidates to be inducted as members.