Plight of Northeastern women – victims of orthodoxy in their home states, targets for sexual abuse in rest of India
by Sharika Nair - yourstory.com | Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2017
After a girl from Nagaland was brutally raped in the desolate deer park
in Delhi’s Hauz Khas area, there were police officials as well as
members of the public advising Northeastern girls to stop partying and
behave themselves in order to stay safe. While victims of sexual
violence often have to endure victim-blaming, the kind of blasé, even
cruel treatment meted out to Northeastern women in India is probably
Binalakshmi Nepram, author and activist, hails from Manipur and has been
an outspoken voice on the issues faced by the women of Northeast India.
She has been tweeting about the shocking victim-blaming that was
rampant in the Hauz Khas case. The police are looking for the rapist
with help from local people and electronic surveillance footage, but a
protest has been planned tomorrow by the Northeast India Forum against
Racism, Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace and a few other
organisations and individuals against the unfair coverage that
Northeastern women receive from the media due to irrelevant details like
their distinctive features and the western outfits they commonly wear.
The Northeastern states, with their dense greenery and exotic
cuisine, along with the calm demeanour of the people, evoke a
postcard-like feeling that is straight out of a tourism advertisement.
The women from these states are attractive, good-natured and hard
working. However, they face a raw deal when they move to different parts
of India seeking better job prospects.
In a survey
conducted by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research,
Jamia Millia Islamia, and commissioned by National Commission for Women,
a random sample group of students and young professionals was
interviewed. The aim of the study was to find out the challenges lying
before women from the Northeastern region who are living and working in
metropolises. Despite being the capital city, Delhi has the worst
record, with 81 percent of respondents from the Northeast reporting that
they faced abuse and discrimination in the city, followed by Bengaluru
at 60 percent.
Meanwhile, Naga men feel elected women leaders destroy Naga culture
In the last couple of weeks, Nagaland has been burning - many people
have been seriously injured, and at least three have died while
buildings, mostly belonging to the state, have been firebombed, and cars
set on fire – all because 33 percent reservation for women
was to be implemented in municipal and town council elections. The
reservation, which has been implemented in other parts of India, was
much delayed in Nagaland. Many women's groups had been fighting for the
same, but most tribespeople had opposed it.
Nagaland might be a scenic state nestled amidst dense forests in the
mountain ranges of India's Northeast, but it has been a politically
volatile place. The mostly Christian population continues to practise
their tribal culture, and they are fiercely proud of their heritage.
Nagas belong to 17 main tribes that believe that a woman’s place is at
home. The state assembly has never had a single woman legislator.
Nagaland has also only elected one woman to Parliament, that too in the
In January, Chief Minister T. R. Zeliang announced that elections to
urban municipal bodies would be held on February 1, with the 33 percent
reservation for women to be in effect for the first time. Tribal groups
erupted in anger and warned women candidates that they would be
excommunicated from their tribes.
According to the conservative men of the state, women don’t need
reservation since they are respected and, unlike other parts of India,
they have no custom of dowry or female foeticide.
But the minute women were to take up positions of power, patriarchy
in its most virulent form exploded across the state. T. R. Zeliang was
forced to step down in the face of all the opposition, and Naga People's
Front (NPF) leader Shurhozelie Liezietsu was elected the new Chief
Will Naga women get a fair deal under the new Chief Minister? Will
Northeastern women ever be assured of safety without having to listen to
jibes on their looks or clothes? These are questions that have no