ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Naga Women Fight Back

Their fight for 33% reservation goes beyond electoral representation to a gender-just society.

Can women demand political representation if, under customary law, only men are entitled to run institutions of governance? This is the crux of the tussle underway in Nagaland where women argue that they are entitled to 33% reservation in urban local bodies (ULBs) as in the rest of the country, and that this provision does not in any way violate customary law. This has been met with vehement opposition cleaving Naga society into the traditionalists, who believe Naga tribal customs must remain sacrosanct, and those who believe Naga society must move ahead and adapt to change and modernisation.

The current impasse is over 33% reservation for women in the state’s 32 ULBs slated for elections on 1 February. Even though the 74th constitutional amendment was passed in 1993, providing reservation for women in ULBs, Nagaland was slow to adopt the provision. It finally did so in 2006 with the passage of the Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act. But since then, for a decade, this law has remained in abeyance as the arguments over whether it violates provisions of Article 371A of the Constitution, guaranteeing protection of Nagaland’s customary laws, have continued to rage in the state. In the meantime, the state’s growing urban areas have suffered from lack of governance and funds to provide basic civic services. In June 2011, civil society groups filed a writ petition in the Gauhati High Court challenging the state government’s refusal to hold municipal elections despite the law. In October, the court upheld the petition and ordered the state government to hold elections by June 2012. The state government managed to get a stay order but in April 2016, in response to a special leave petition, the Supreme Court vacated the stay. As a result, the state government was left with no option but to call for municipal elections.

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Updated On : 20th Jan, 2017

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