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Women at a disadvantage in Mizoram

By Sukhendu Bhattacharya in Aizawl
Last updated on: November 15, 2003 07:01 IST
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"Ours is a peaceful state and, as Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh announced, it is a model state for election," says 22-year-old Mawitei who works in a shop in capital Aizawl.

But in a state, which boasts of nearly 87 per cent female literacy, there are only four women among the 192 candidates contesting the November 20 assembly polls.

The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) has no woman candidate, the Congress has one while the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) has fielded two.

There were as many as eight women contestants in the 1998 assembly polls but none could enter the state assembly.

"The state's history has shown that they have failed to get any response from the electorate although every party would ideally would like to give some tickets to women," says former chief minister and Congress leader Lalthanhawla.

This in a state in which women outnumber men in 26 of the 40 constituencies.

Since Mizoram attained statehood in 1987, only one woman has been elected to the state assembly. Lalhlimpui was made a minister in the Laldanga ministry during 1987-88 when the MNF had formed the government.

"Even though women staff every shop in the state, patriarchal laws are biased against them," says Lalzarliani Hmar, president of the Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawn Pawl (MHIP), a women's organisation.

The Indian Christian Marriage act in not applicable in this state and the customary law reduces them to a cheap purchasable commodity with the bride price being Rs 420.

Mawitei, which in Mizo means pretty, says women have now more or less accepted their status in the society and have got accustomed to the law.

The Congress's lone women candidate Zothankimi wants her party to help improve women's status in Mizo society. "Our party has promised to codify the customary law keeping in mind women's dignity," she says.

But overall, it does not appear like women's rights is an issue in this state and even are not contesting it.
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Sukhendu Bhattacharya in Aizawl
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