Allow Naga women to inherit parental property—Temsula Ao
Kohima, Nov. 24 (EMN): Despite the general assumption that there is no gender discrimination in a patriarchal Naga society, Naga women are still struggling to find their place in decision-making bodies, and in inheritance of parental properties.
Towards this end, the chairperson Nagaland State Commission for Women (NSCW), Dr. Temsula Ao has proposed to ‘redefine’ the existing Naga customary laws with special focus on women’s acceptance into village councils, town committees and the legislative assembly; and equal inheritance of parental property for women.
She was speaking on the topic ‘Customary law and gender: Redefining customary law from a gender perspective’ during the launch of ‘16 days of activism against gender-based violence’ at the NSCW office in Kohima on Saturday.
Ao said that redefining Naga customary laws do not mean abolishing them ‘because Nagas would be losing our identity within our rights.’
“When one speaks of ‘redefining’, it means ‘re-doing’ or ‘changing’ an existing entity or a concept and giving it a new meaning. In today’s context, it is assumed that when we use the word ‘customary’ we are referring to Naga customary laws and that we are proposing to ‘redefine’ it from a gender perspective,” said Ao.
Although the word ‘gender’ is often used ‘negatively,’ she said that some positive tags have now come into bureaucratic parlance like gender budgeting, gender-friendly (polices/schemes) and gender equality etc.
However, she doubted if the situation of women in Naga society has changed because of the orientations advocated by NGO pressure groups or even the government’s ostentatious efforts to promote gender-equality through adopting concepts like gender budgeting and gender-safe working environments in work places.
“Whatever be the results of such efforts, they will be superficial at best because the core of gender-discrimination lies at the very heart of customary laws which direct and govern Naga life even in the twenty-first century,” she said.
Given this ‘reality,’ she asserted that it is imperative that ‘redefining’ customary law must begin from within the patriarchal set-up ‘who are the custodians of the laws as the fundamental discriminations against women are enshrined in these very laws.’
Ao said the NCSW has initiated dialogues with the apex bodies of all the tribes in order to facilitate the process of giving the women shares of the parental property.
Extensive awareness programmes and seminars regarding this were held all over tribal headquarters of the state since 2014.
She also reminded that the commission’s approach was of dialogue and not confrontation. ‘We do not want to challenge or upset the customary laws which form the bedrock of Naga society,’ Ao said.
She hoped that Naga women, after ‘accepting’ their status as ‘subordinate or secondary’, would be able to achieve what it has envisaged even as it take years.
Also speaking on the occasion, the secretary of Social Welfare department, Sarah Ritse said, gender-based violence is posing a great hindrance to achieving gender equality.
Though Nagaland is considered one of the ‘safest states’ for women, Ritse pointed out that the number of crime against women is on the rise. Gender-based violence, she said, is manifested in the form of reports of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and eve teasing and even cyber crimes.
Ritse said, it is the collective responsibility of both men and women, educational institutions, churches, civil organisations to address the issue.