The world today celebrates International Women’s day under the theme ‘PressForProgress’. The day is being celebrated across the world to show respect to the women community and also to uplift them from the crunch of the male dominated society. It is also celebrated to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the globe.
Well the observation of the day has its root at New York. The mass protest of the women garment worker in 1908 demanding improvement of their working condition had brought significant changes to the condition of women. Commemorating the day the United States of America observed February 28 as the National Women’s Day in 2009.
Since then various uprising across the European countries took place. The United Nations later deeply felt the need for recognizing a day particularly for women and since 1975, the March 8 has been observing as the International Day across the globe.
Like every nations across the globe, the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur had witnessed various historic events. The first Nupi Lal of 1904 and the 2nd Nupi Lal of 1939, are some of the events where Manipuri women contribution towards bringing a change in the society is worth remembering.
Unlike the western countries which celebrate International Women’s Day, the kind of observation being taken place in a place like Manipur is different – Women’s day being observed by various organizations in the state is rather to find a solution to the problems being faced by the women of today’s Manipuri society. And unlike in the mainland Indian states and other developed and developing countries, the issues are of the women here in Manipur are very different.
There are certain issues like domestic violence, rape and crime against women, issues of widows, orphan girl child may be somewhat similar in almost all human society. But the kind of subjugation being faced by the women of Manipur under the draconian laws and the women becoming most venerable object during conflict between non state actors and state actors is serious.
The practice of polygamy in the society and peoples’ acceptance to it, either willingly or unwillingly is somewhat suppressing the rights of women.
The issue about polygamy in Manipur have its root in the feudal character of the society.
If we look back in the history, it was the King and his subjects that were privileged to have wives more than one. The end of monarch does not end this feudal attitude.
During 1980s the society was severely hit by drugs and insurgency related violence. Because of drugs many become victims of HIV and AIDS, and because of insurgency related violence many were exterminated. Thus the number of widows was on the rise.
Understanding the possible impact, government introduced various welfare schemes for improvement of the widows. For example widows of the victim killed in insurgency related violence were provided monetary assistance provided that the victim does not belong to member of any none state actor.
If the victim is proved to be member of any none state actors then the widow are left to live on their own.
On the other hand Manipur’s societal structure is always seen as male dominating society even after knowing that women have been always in the forefront – whether it may be fighting against immoral activities, drugs or wrongs of the government besides taking active role in supporting their respective family economically.
Culturally women are still forbidden to take the lead role. For example women are not allowed to do Keiyna dan during the marriage of her daughter when she is the only parents left. A widow with only daughters still has to wait some male relative to perform the last rite of her husband or near and dear one. In both Sanamahi and Manipuri Veishnavite culture women are always told to follow the male. They are not allowed to sit at ‘Phambal’- a place where head of the family often sit. This means that women are never considered as the head of family.
On the other hand women are deprived of their rights in getting their share from their parental family. The law of this land says that daughters or son should have equal rights when it comes to inherit properties. In Manipur society daughters once married are considered separated entirely from their parental family.
Out of the 60 assembly seat women can occupy only 2 in the state assembly. The people had witnessed the assembly house with maximum 3 women MLAs. There is hardly any representation of women in Parliament and it is unfortunate for a developing country to not include its women in the process. The observance of International Women’s Day under the theme PressForProgress seems to have lost its significance as long as the women are not empowered to represent in the decision making body of the country as well as in the state.
Issues of the women are understood by women and without their presence it is useless to whatever welfare programme taken up for the women. Beti Bachoa, Beti Padhao , Ujjawala Yojna, maternity leave schemes advertised today in some leading newspapers are valueless unless they are not empowered to sit among the male in the decision making body.
- Published in Editorial