Indigenous identity of women shouldn’t be taken away after marriage — Commission on RIIN
Kohima, Aug. 9 (EMN): The Commission on Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) is of the view that the indigenous identity of a woman from Nagaland should not be taken away because of marriage to a non-tribal.
This was mentioned in the report of the Commission on RIIN, also known as Banuo Commission, which was tabled at the recently concluded monsoon session of the13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
The report, which was prepared and submitted after holding consultations with various stakeholders, NGOs, political groups, and civil society organisations in the state, said that ‘woman should continue to enjoy whatever privileges/benefits that are due to an indigenous inhabitant/Scheduled Tribe/Backward Tribe’.
‘Towards this, an opinion was voiced that this may lead to complications of financial frauds, income tax and wealth tax. Apprehension of its misuse should not be a ground to deny her the right. Her husband and her children will not however be eligible for such privileges. Just as marriage should not deny a woman the benefits she is entitled to, marriage cannot entitle a woman to benefits, if she herself is not eligible,’ it stated.
The essence of the standing government order of Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department office memorandum was brought to the attention of all the groups, whereby it has been notified that acquisition of such eligibility, through marriage/adoption, is not permissible, it said.
The Commission observed through the interactive sessions that the status of women in Naga society, as well as among the other non-Naga tribes (Kachari, Mikir, Kuki and Garo), is still ‘very insular and tradition-bound’.
‘While it is not the intention of the Commission to show disrespect or interfere in the customs and traditions of the various tribes on marriage, the conditions mentioned about the status of a woman post-marriage/divorce, give her a very tenuous and transient nature of identity,’ it observed.
It took some time for the members of the Commission to put across the understanding that in authenticating the identity of a woman, her lineage has to be traced through her parents and not through her husband, said the report.
‘It was the unanimous view of all the groups that ‘indigenous’ must be by birth/ancestral lineage; it was therefore impressed on them that the criteria must be uniform applicable, to men and women,’ it added.
However, the Commission was of the view that matter concerning the status of women needs to be more broad-minded.
“The lineage of a woman must be acknowledged. This should have no linkage to whether she is married or unmarried. Her rights as an indigenous tribal woman should not be put to her disadvantage after marriage,” it observed.
Regarding children of non-tribal fathers, raised by single/unwed mothers, the Commission said it needs to be studied with more sensitivity. ‘Children with such lineage will continue to be the responsibility of society at large. They must necessarily be given an identity, with which they can live a productive life, with dignity and respect,’ it added.
Women’s right to own land
The Commission in its recommendation stated that it was brought to its notice that there had been an increasing number of cases of procurement of land in Dimapur by indigenous tribal women. Although no specific instances were cited, it’s alleged that many of these women were married to non-tribals and persons not indigenous to Nagaland.
‘It was the expressed apprehension that through such a process, there will be alienation of land, because allegedly most of these purchases are sponsored by the husbands, who are non-indigenous. The right to purchase and own land by women cannot be compromised,’ it said.
‘However, in such instances, it must categorically be notified that ownership will only be during her lifetime and that neither her husband nor their children shall have hereditary rights to the property, if she is married to a non-indigenous/non-tribal,’ said the report.
‘This would be in accordance with the provisions of the state’s land laws that do not allow alienation of land to non-tribals. Nevertheless, should the woman be the sole provider for her children, in the event she is abandoned or divorced by the husband, it is recommended that the government consider the welfare of the children in allowing transfer of the property to them, with appropriate conditions,’ it added.
The Commission on RIIN was constituted with retired IAS officer Banuo Z Jamir as chairperson; Home Commissioner Abhijit Sinha as member secretary; and retired Commissioner M Patton; Secretary, Justice and Law Khanrinla T Koza; K Inaka Assumi and C Shingwang as members to study, recommend and advise the state government on the exercise.