It has been learnt for many months and years now that Nagaland Draft State Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2003 is under consideration by the state government. Not only that, but the setting up of a State Commission for Women to promote the interests of women, formation of Women Development Corporations (WDC) to channel financial assistance for promotion of economic enterprises by women, poverty alleviation and employment generation to be considered for Nagaland, provision of financial resources for training and advocacy for women’s participation at all levels of decision-making also finds mention in the draft policy. The only problem lies in the yawning gap between policy and intent.
According to Nagaland State Human Development Report, the draft policy on empowerment of women, 2003 was declared after extensive consultations. So the question arises as to why no concrete decision has been forthcoming from the State Government in particular with regard to the setting up of a State Commission for Women. If one recalls, the present State government had turned down the proposal for setting up of a State Commission for Women (SCW). No doubt there is a huge debate on whether such a mechanism is at all necessary for a State like Nagaland. For those who have been closely following the stated positions of political parties on the issue of women’s empowerment, the stand taken by the Neiphiu Rio government should come as no surprise and it follows a similar decision taken by the then SC Jamir led Congress government which had similarly rejected 33% reservation of seats in the State. At least on this issue, both the NPF and Congress appear to agree on the same point i.e. the status of its women is much better off and does not conform to the general perception of women’s status in India.
But then, 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. The State government would do well to come closer to reality while drawing its premise on women specific policy initiatives. 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? But to make a sweeping claim that “Atrocities against women are relatively unknown in the state” is nothing but absurd and the argument of political parties is itself misleading.
As pointed out through a representation made to the Governor recently by a cross section of women from different fields, policies and guidelines for protection of women’s right have been ignored and violated. A state commission for women per se may not be the cure to all the ills but it will at least help to safeguard and improve the condition of women in the state. More importantly, such a commission will be in the best position to guide and help the state government to implement policies specific for the well being of women in Nagaland. The Neiphiu Rio government should therefore without wasting anymore time facilitate the setting up of the all important State Women Commission.