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Customary law under scanner of Naga women
Correspondent KOHIMA, OCT 12 (NPN):
Published on 13 Oct. 2010 12:22 AM IST
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Women speakers at the two-day consultation meet on “Securing Women’s Rights - Challenges and Strategies” held at Kohima on Tuesday maintained that the Naga customary law came in the way of providing them access to legal rights and that it (customary law) was the biggest challenge faced by Naga women.
Speakers described the customary law as an instrumental in denying legal rights of women, while discussing customary laws and gender issues in the context of Naga society. The two-day meet is being organized by North East Network in collaboration with C-Cerp and NEIP at LCS Conclave Hall, Kohima. Lecturer of Kohima Science College, Dr. Anungla Aier pointed out that though the Naga customary law acknowledged the status of women, yet it did not give them equal opportunity as it was seen as unchangeable.
Asserting that patriarchal elements within society rendered women voiceless due to the stringent customary law on women’s role in decision making bodies, Dr. Aier called for some arrangements outside the purview of the customary law. She said Naga customary law made women marginal members of clan groups and barred them from having access to inheritance.
Also highlighting crimes against women, she said cases of rape and murder should be dealt with as per legal laws and not through the customary law, as the latter had no clear cut provisions for women against rapists.
Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) president, Abeiü Meru said customary law was being used mainly on the plea of preserving traditions but instead has become a stumbling block for women to move ahead with the rest. She pointed out that there were too few women in decision making bodies and cited the absence of women legislators. Reminding that there was stiff opposition to the implementation of 33% reservation of seats for women in municipalities and town councils, Abeiü, said she was happy that Naga women organizations were firm on women’s reservation .
Stating that the state government was responsible for protection of all its citizens, Abeiü said the state should provide equal protection to women being violated, those with HIV and AIDS, alcoholism, drug addicts and victims of trafficking. She further opined that the Naga society being patriarchal needed to be gender sensitized and women made aware of their rights. To achieve gender equality, Abeiü asserted, that the society must recognize the potential of women and encourage them to move forward. Member of Naga Women Commission, Ellen Konyak also spoke on the influence of customary laws and gender issues with special focus on Konyak community.
Later, sessions on Law and Women Rights - State and International Laws; Securing Women’s Rights - Challenges and Strategies were taken up with women speakers from various fields. On Wednesday, the session would discuss topics like “Women in the Unorganized Sector - Local Context” and “Food Security - Women Land Rights and Women’s Labour.”

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