Women to play key role in Mizoram polls

By Sujit Chakraborty, IANS,

Aizawl : Women are set to play a major role in the Nov 29 assembly elections in Mizoram – the only state in India where women voters outnumber men.

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Of the total of 611,124 voters eligible to exercise their franchise in next month’s elections to the 40-seat Mizoram assembly, 308,884 are women and 302,240 men.

Women outnumbered men voters by 3,816 during the last assembly polls in 2003.

Mizo women contribute immensely to the economy of the Christian-dominated state, its domestic affairs, church and social activities, but when it comes to politics, assembly elections in particular, they fall back in getting due importance.

The Women Welfare Front (WWF), constituted by the women members of the village councils (local administration) across the state, has been actively spearheading the campaign for women candidates in the state assembly polls.

“We are making all-out efforts so that we see as many women candidates as possible in the coming assembly elections. We have requested political parties to nominate as many women candidates as possible and we will appeal to the female voters to vote for the women contestants,” said WWF secretary Darhmingthangi.

In the 2003 polls, none of the seven women contenders won.

Darhmingthangi told newsmen: “No home is complete without a woman; so is the case with the state assembly. As much as we need women in our domestic affairs, we need them in the legislative system too.”

Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP), the state’s biggest women’s body, has given full moral support to the WWF’s initiatives.

“Despite the women working hard in all sectors of Mizo society, they are deprived of getting their due share in the control of power,” said MHIP president Rozami, who is also chairperson of the Mizoram State Commission for Women.

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

Among them, Lalhimpui of the Mizo National Front (MNF) had become a minister.

Meanwhile, the ruling Mizo National Front and the main opposition Congress are still undecided whether they would field women candidates in the Nov 29 assembly polls.

“We have no problems in nominating women candidates if there are qualified and efficient women contenders,” said Congress spokesman Lalsawta.

“We would field four to five women candidates in the ensuing elections,” said C. Lallianchhunga, spokesperson of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a conglomerate of various regional parties.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced that it would allot 33 percent seats to women in the assembly polls in line with the party’s stand on reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures.

“The party favours 33 percent reservation for women and the state BJP unit would follow the party’s national stand over women’s quota,” said Khawvelthanga, president of the state BJP.

“Mizo society in pre-modern times was strictly based on what is known as an extreme patriarchal society. This created ‘private’ and ‘public’ domain, where women were stigmatised to the private sphere that relegated their status in the social and religious life,” said Sekhar Paul, a renowned sociologist.

Paul told IANS : “Women therefore had no opportunities to go beyond the scope of the ‘domestic sphere’ and it was only men who controlled and dominated the entire ‘public sphere’. They were not supposed to have any independent religious loyalty, but were required to follow the religion of their husbands.”

“Christianity of course is the harbinger of ‘modernity’ as well as women’s liberation in Mizoram. The Christian missionaries are regarded as a symbol of ‘modernisation’ that led to gradual changes in the conservative attitudes of men towards women.”

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.