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Report lays bare women's status in NE

From a Correspondent/Staff Correspondent
Shillong, Nov 14: Although there is a perception that women in the North-eastern region are better off than their counterparts in the rest of India, females in this part of the world too are at a disadvantaged lot.
“Women in the Northeast are disadvantaged under the customary practices. Women are not seen participating politically. There are few MLAs, and MP are even rarer,” National Commission for Women Chairperson Rekha Sharma said while addressing the inaugural function of the daylong meet on Recommendations of the Study on Social, Economic and Political Empowerment of Women in North-eastern States held at the North Eastern Council premises in the city.
Sharma also pointed out that though women are seen working in every sphere, they are still being deprived off from their rights over land.
According to the report of the Recommendations of the Study on Social, Economic and Political Empowerment of Women in North-eastern States, many women of the region are engaged in agricultural activities.
“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 states.
The report also pointed out 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 in 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 stated.
Meanwhile, as per the report, women in the Northeast are politically lagging behind their counterparts elsewhere in the country.
The report states that 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.
“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,” the report stated.
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, the report stated.
“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 reports added.
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”.