“Access to Justice for Women”
Action Research in 5 districts in the North Eastern
States of India under Schedule 6 or excluded from
Article 371A, B and G of the Constitution of India
ExposureTrip toBijolia-Rajasthan 28
Impulse NGO Network
Near Horse Shoe Building
Technical Support/ Sponsored By
National Resource Centre for Women,
National Mission for Empowerment of Women,
Ministry of Women and Child Development
Janpath Hotel, Janpath
Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, New Delhi
United Nations Development Programme
The Research Team takes full responsibility for the content of the study, views expressed are
those of the author and the respondents, and can therefore in no way be taken to reflect the
official opinion of National Mission of Empowerment for Women, the Department of Justice
Impulse NGO Network is deeply grateful to the respondents and the participants in the meeting and
consultation for this study who willingly shared their views, personal experiences and their valuable time
with our researchers.
The team is thankful to the National Resource Centre for Women (NRCW), National Mission for
Empowerment of Women (NMEW), especially the then Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and
Child Development, Ms. Ratna Prabha, and Ms. Rashmi Singh, Executive Director, National Resource
Centre for Women , NMEW, for their immense support towards this collaborative gender convergence
initiative between UNDP, Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice and NRCW, Ministry of
Women and Child Development and for providing institutional mechanism for completion of this entire
process and ensure its sustainability. We also acknowledge Advocate, Devika Singh, Senior Project
Advisor, NRCW/NMEW; Dr. Poulomi Pal, Senior Research Officer, NRCW/NMEW; Ms. Swati Mehta,
Project Manager, Access to Justice for Marginalized People UNDP for their extended technical help,
support in ensuring intellectual contribution and valuable comments on each step of report writing, which
brought the study report to its highest standards.
I would like to thank the Research Team especially the Research Consultants, Field Researchers,
Tabulators, Transcriptions, Focus Group Discussion Team of the four states of Meghalaya, Mizoram,
Nagaland and Tripura, who have put together an effort to ensure that Access to Justice by Women in 7
Districts in North Eastern States under the Sixth Schedule or Article 371 A, B of Constitution of India,
becomes a reality in this short time bound period. Impulse NGO Network would like to extend its gratitude
to the UNDP for their generous support to undertake this elaborate and extensive research, considering all
relevant aspects of Access to Justice by Women under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution (Article
371 A, B and G of the Indian Constitution) due to its tribal population.
Above all, the team at Impulse which ensured that every objective of the Research is systematically taken
care of, cross checking data crucial in every research, including care of financials, Mr. Debotosh
Purkayastha, Finance Assistant; Mr. A.G. Kharbhih, Finance Board Director; Ms. L. Lamboi, Case Manager
and Rosanna Lyngdoh, Board Director of Impulse NGO Network, Shillong.
We would like to express sincere thanks to our Research Consultants Ms. Elisa Makinen, Ms. Priyam
Saharia, Ms. Bhaswati Borgohain and Shweta Desai’s contribution, especially in documenting the main
findings of in-depth interviews, Focus Group Discussion, Closed Ended and Secondary Data analysis.
I would personally also like to thank to Jennifer Liang, the Ant, who contributed in finalizing the
questionnaire; Asola Imkong, Diphupar, Dimapur Nagaland who gave tremendous support in networking in
the Nagaland research. Pramila Sharma for proof reading and editing.
Near Horse Shoe Building, Lower Lachumiere, Shillong – 793 001, Meghalaya, India
Phone No: +91 364 – 2503140, firstname.lastname@example.org ,
Impulse thanks Alice Garg, BAL Rashmi Society for arranging the visit to PRI in Bijolia, Jaipur, Rajasthan;
Amod Kanth, Genaral Secretary Prayas, New Delhi; Dr. Ranjana Kumari, President, Women Power
Connect New Delhi; Dr. N. Hamsa, Executive Director, WPC, New Delhi; NRCW/NMEW, GRC New
Delhi; Mr. Mrinal Ghosh, Coordinator, Care of Needy Children Rightfully Nurtured (Concern); Benjamin
Khasousa, Programme Officer, World Vision, Kopila, Siliguri for his co-operation and in providing
valuable time to interact with women Leaders from the five Districts of East Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills,
Meghalaya, Kohima Nagaland, Aizwal Mizoram and Agartala Tripura during different phases of the
Exposure Trip undertaken from October 2012 to November 2012 in three phases.
Chair of Board, Impulse NGO Network, Shillong
Team Lead, Research on “Action Research on Access t o Justice by women in 7 District in North
Eastern State under the Sixth Scheduled or Article 371A, B and G of the Constitution of India”.
Near Horse Shoe Building, Lower Lachumiere, Shillong – 793 001, Meghalaya, India
Phone No: +91 364 – 2503140, email@example.com ,
Table of Contents
S.No. Particulars Page No.
Executive Summary 7
A Introduction 18
- Overview 18
- Goals and Objectives 18
- Methodology 19
- Design of the Report 21
- Data Analysis 21
- Duration of the Study 21
- Limitations 21
B District wise Reports 22
22- District Kohima
- District East Khasi Hills 88
- District Jaintia Hills
- District Lawngtlai
205- District West Tripura
C Bibliography 243
D Research Team 250
On behalf of the National Resource Centre for Women (NRCW), National Mission for
Empowerment of Women, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Government of India
(“NMEW”), Impulse NGO Network undertook an ac tion research project on ‘Access to Justice
for Women’ in five districts of the North Eastern States. The Study was conducted from August
1st and November 30th, 2012 and funded under the ‘Project on Access to Justice for
Marginalized People’ implemented by the Department of Justice in the Ministry of Law and
Justice, Government of India (“DoJ”) with the suppo rt of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with and administered by the NRCW, NMEW in
consultation with the DoJ & UNDP.
Schedule 6 of the Indian Constitution refers to administration of tribal areas in North Eastern
States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Article 371 A, B and G of the Indian
Constitution protects tribal laws that apply to States of Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland,
guaranteeing a system of self-governance and ensuring that the tribal regions are able to preserve
their existing system of protecting tribal rights and ensure decentralisation of power.
In the tribal system, Village Dorbars (Traditional Institutions) or the Village Council
Development Committees have no mandate for women representation, and therefore there is no
way of ensuring even minimum representation of women.
The aim of the research was to understand the access to justice for women in the scheduled tribal
communities and its direct or indirect relation, if any, to the women’s political participation. The
objectives were to assess the necessity, need and f or m of legal intervention through a
consultative process in the community. The research also aimed to create a base to identify
opportunities of convergence between the various stakeholders such as the community, local
NGOs, tribal community leaders and participating state governments to boost women’s
participation in governance and access to justice.
The report is broken down in five district reports beginning with an introduction of the state, its
history, geographic and demographic features and moving on to the understanding of women’s
status and rights, women’s participation in Governance and Judiciary system; violence against
women and women's access to justice for the crimes they may have experienced, concluding with
key findings and recommendations.
The study used a combination of various methodologies to collect primary and secondary data
and do the analyses. Primary data was collected through a schedule of formal interviews in
Focused Groups and Observations for qualitative data. A brief training was conducted to
familiarize the field researchers locally appointed from the districts. It included scheduling
interviews, methods for data collection, and emphasized various aspects of the research subject
and an overall understanding of the conceptual framework of access to justice.
Close Ended Interviews were conducted for primary data collection through a questionnaire
created by the core research team. An open-ended questionnaire was also used to get the local
people’s general understanding of the subject. A target of 70 questionnaires was given to each
district for interviewing professionals from law, business, teaching, government and public
service, NGOs and health-care workers to learn and understand their views on ‘Access to Justice
Focused Group Discussions (FGD) at the grassroots level such as women’s groups, men’s
groups, community based organizations, self-help groups, student unions, etc were used to get
their understanding of the concept and awareness of women’s access to justice in their states. The
participants did not have high level of education. 11 Focused Group Discussions were conducted
in each district with a range of 10 to 30 members in a group. These discussions were documented
Twenty Seven In-depth interviews were conducted in each district. The interviews encouraged
spontaneous expression from participants and were audio recorded for transcription and analysis.
The participants included a mix of people who interfaced with general public like government
officials, politicians, media personnel, experts on the subject from the Academia, Police
Protection Officers, Officers from the Women’s cell, Probation Officers, etc.
In order to get participation from important stakeholders who could not fit in any group, seminars
were organized at district level, and one consultation meeting was also organised at the state level
where District and State level dignitaries were invited to share the findings and give their
recommendations for way forward.
The research study also conducted exposure trips for a select group of rural women playing an
important role in their communities and who could be in a position to take up leadership and
advocacy roles to carry forward the objectives of the research. The trips were organized to
National Resource Centre for Women and Gender Resource Centres for Women in Delhi;
Panchayati Raj Institution in Rajasthan and West Bengal, for understanding the functioning and
the roles played by women. It could be observed that they are well functioning. 25 women went
on such visits. At the end of the trip, feedback was taken by way of a questionnaire.
Secondary data was collected to know the status of women’s access to justice from various
sources that maintain records like government departments, universities, colleges, newspapers,
magazines and journals on the various aspects of ‘Access to Justice for Women. Customary laws
on the topic from each district were reviewed and a comparative analysis done between these and
the laws promulgated by the Central Government in other parts of the country.
The research examined historical evidence of women in leadership positions or if they had ever
been part of the decision making process. A comparative analysis was drawn with the past and
the present position of women and factors that contributed to the decline or improvement of the
status of women
The collected data was verified, processed and is presented in tables and graphs to facilitate
analysis and interpretation.
The findings of the study were shared with State Governments to help in creating protocols to
address women’s participation in governance and also to empower them to deal with gender-based
All the 5 districts covered revealed similar trends on women’s access to justice.
Women enjoy traditional respect and social freedom. There is no culture of dowry. Sex selective
abortions are almost non-existent and women’s literacy rates are high compared to rest of the
Nevertheless, women in all the 5 districts face discrimination. The mindset of male superiority and
stereotypical work division on a basis of gender are strong. The local customary laws are not
sensitive towards women; they do not enjoy civil, social and economic rights fully. Women are not
able to fully participate in the political decision-making and therefore, women specific issues are
often neglected. Laws designed for protection of the women are not fully implemented. Tripura
has reported the highest rate of crime against women at 37.0 per one lakh population during the
year 2011 as compared to 18.9 per one lakh population crime rate at the national level. While the
other target states presented lower rates of violence against women, than the national average,
respondents stated that the violence against women in their respective states often goes
Nagaland has a patriarchal tribal society. The status of women in Nagaland is considered to be
better than in many other states in India. The absence of dowry in Naga society means daughters
are not considered a burden. Sons are still preferred but there is no daughter aversion. Sex
selective abortions are almost non-existent.
Women do not enjoy property rights fully. They have the right to inherit immovable property only
in exceptional cases. In such cases however, the male members of the family can take the matter to
a traditional justice institution and claim the property for themselves. Laws related to women’s civil
rights are poorly implemented; their health rights are neglected. Statistics on maternal mortality are
either unavailable or unreliable. The schemes to support institutional birth delivery have not been
implemented properly: institutional birth delivery in Nagaland is among the lowest in the country
at 12 percent. Nagaland has not fully implemented Domestic Violence Act. Equal Pay for Equal
Work Act and the Maternity Benefit Act are relevant only in the government sector.
All the 1286 villages in Nagaland follow their unique, unwritten customary laws and practices.
However, the customary laws that have gender dimension are similar throughout the State and are
discriminatory against women. The traditional mindset of a male superiority is strong. Traditions
limit the role of a woman to household work. Even though, increasingly, more women
work outside of the house, and in the rural areas women form a major part of the workforce in
agriculture - still the household work and care of children are exclusively women’s
Women are represented politically by men exclusively. There has never been a woman legislator
in the history of the 11 State Legislative Assemblies. Every recognised village in Nagaland has a
Village Council. The Rules for Administration of Justice and Police in Nagaland Act, 1937,
empowers the council to maintain law and order within the village as well as administer justice in
accordance with the customary laws. Traditionally only men could become members, as the
customary laws strictly forbid women to participate in political decision-making. Nevertheless,
today it is possible for women to present their candidacy in all the levels of political decision
making but they are at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to getting elected. As it stands,
only truly privileged women can even consider getting involved in politics. Poor economic rights
combined with the ingrained corrupt practices in elections deprive women of the resources to get
elected. The male-dominated village councils and tribal organizations oppose the 33% women
reservation because it violates customary laws, but in general do not oppose women participation
in elections knowing well that they would not be able to garner support.
Customary laws are created, interpreted and applied exclusively by men as women’s participation
in the traditional institutions is restricted or, at the best, minimal. The customary laws and court
practices do not encourage women who may have experienced violence to seek justice. For
instance, Angami customary law dictates that if a rape takes place on the main road, it is not
considered as a crime. According to this law, in case of a crime, the victim would be dragged
down the hill, below the main road. Customary laws dictate the domestic violence must be handled
in the family and can be tried in the traditional institution only if the wife divorces her husband. In
case of a divorce the husband gets the custody of the children. Therefore, a victim of domestic
violence can only get justice if she decides to leave her children to the violent husband. Many
Village Councils set barriers for women to participate in hearings for what it describes as their “
gossiping nature” or “ weak minds”. Women are frequently forbidden to attend the resolving of
conflicts, even if a relative is one of the parties.
Notably, Article 371(A), which is a special provision with respect to the State of Nagaland states:
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution – (a) No Act of Parliament in respect of-
(i) religious or social practices of the Nagas, (ii) Naga customary law and procedure, (iii)
administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law,
(iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless
the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides. This has implied that the
customary inequalities have continued to prevail in the State despite the fact that women in other
parts of the country enjoy equal rights.
Article 371(A) was designed to protect Naga traditions from the infringement of the outside world,
but now is adversely impacting the rights of Naga women. Nagaland needs to take concrete
actions to bring their customary laws into the new century. The guiding principles of customary
laws should be well-defined, documented and discriminatory practices eliminated. A review of
customary laws is crucial for it to evolve to serve modern Naga society and to maintain
relevance for future generations. Well-defined customary laws would make it more difficult for
vested interests to misuse Article 371(A) for protecting discriminatory and regressive practices.
All cases presented and tried in traditional institutions must be documented by the focal point of
the traditional institutions and submitted to the nearest police station to create statistical
information of the crimes taken place in the State. Criminal cases should not be tried in the
Traditional Institutions but proper trial should be conducted in the Court of Law.
Nagaland Government should legislate and enforce the practice of last will and property rights of
women. Parents must have an exclusive right to decide to whom they wish to gift their property
and except legal heirs nobody should be in a position to challenge their decision.
Stronger efforts for women empowerment are needed. Nagaland State Women’s Commission have
reached the block level in each 11 district to raise awareness on women’s rights. However, the
awareness campaigns alone are not enough. Women need to be empowered politically and
participate in the governance institutions, both at the village and state level. The laws and schemes
designed for protection of the women must be fully implemented and enforced.
This study shows that the matrilineal system has accorded Khasi women certain privileges that are
less evident in other states in India. The public perception is that women should have as much
access to education as men. In fact, in Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills, the proportion of literate
women is higher than men. There is near absence of sex-selective abortions and no dowry system
among matrilineal tribes of Meghalaya. The dominant public perception is that women have the
right to mobility, education, and even to choose marriage-partners as they desire.
Though the high social status of women uncovered in the study is a positive finding, the real status
of women gradually unfolds itself when one probes deeper into decision-making structures within
families and society. The study starkly brings to light the unique and complex situation that occurs
when a matrilineal culture co-exists within a deeply entrenched patriarchal system that dominates
women in myriad obvious and subtle ways.
Khasi women have a central role in leadership positions in their neighborhoods and their
immediate communities: for example, informally organized women’s groups in churches and
neighborhoods fight against alcoholism and collaborate to maintain cleanliness and hygiene in
their communities. Women also play an important role in day to day household decision-making,
while men play the dominant role in making financial and the decisions of the children’s
education. This discrimination in decision-making power comes sharply to light on property
rights. Though the youngest daughters have the right to inherit property, decision-making
authority with regard to management or disposal of property still rests with men. So women have
right to property but do not have the authority to make decisions. At the same time, the right of
inheritance granted to women comes with responsibilities to care for children, parents and other
elders in the family. Our study shows that property rights for Khasi women have not translated
into economic independence. Even though women in Meghalaya constitute a greater portion of the
workforce compared to an India average, they work mostly as casual labour and marginal workers.
Loose marriage ties, extra-marital affairs, alcoholism and marriage at an early age were widely
regarded as factors that contributed to the high divorce rates which has strong financial
implications for Khasi women. Earlier, a divorced or widowed woman could seek protection with
the clan. Now with loss of common pool of resources due to urbanization, men sell off property
because they have the decision making power and the slow breakdown of the traditional clan
system, women are losing control over property rights. The plight of deserted women is even more
vulnerable since customary laws don’t allow a woman to seek alimony.
There is a variety of the decision making institutions in Meghalaya; Traditional Dorbars at the
locality, village and district level, District Councils as well as Formal Courts in the district and
state level. The Traditional Dorbars are political institutions that can try petty crimes according to
the traditional unwritten customary laws. District Councils try cases such as divorce and property
related issues. The Formal Courts try cases as per the law. However, in practise there is no clear
demarcation of the mandates and powers of these institutions: Traditional Dorbars are trying also
rape cases even though it does not fall under their mandate. At the village level the Dorbars do not
allow women to participate in the decision making. In the recent years Traditional Dorbars at
district headquarters and in the urban localities have started to allow women representation. In the
elections of District Councils women are allowed to present their candidacy. However, the women
representation remains low.
The inequitable status of Khasi women becomes further evident with the extent of violence faced
by Khasi women within the family and in society. The high rates of violence against women and
the accelerating rise of divorce cases draws attention to the status of institutions of justice for
women. There is widespread ignorance about statutory laws protecting women even among the
educated people. The complexities involved in approaching formal courts and the ambiguity of
rules and regulations prevents women from accessing the formal courts for justice.
Recommendations for Meghalaya
It is imperative to improve access of rural women to educational opportunities. Also, efforts on a
war footing should be made by the Health Department to improve access of rural women to
institutional birth deliveries by setting up health care centres such as Public Health Centres and the
Community Health Centres.
There should be clear demarcation regarding the jurisdiction of traditional dorbars, District
Council and formal or statutory courts. Codification of the customary laws and documentation for
easy understanding of its interpretation is necessary. Customary laws need to be thoroughly
reviewed to remove discriminatory stances, such as restrictions for women to participate in
decision-making institutions. Women Bill prepared by District Council needs to be followed up by
NGOs together with Department of Law to bring a wider discussion at the state level.
A few all-women police stations have been set up in Shillong. They need to expand to other
districts and serve as centres where convergence of stakeholders needs to take place to ensure
successful service provider linkages. Shelter homes for victims of different kinds of violence are
required so that they have a safe place to stay while their cases are being resolved. NGOs and the
government, both working closely together, must provide support services for women.
Mobile courts should be set up, that will approach a group of villages every 3 months. This will
increase the ability of women to access formal courts. State Legal Service Authorities should
engage in more awareness generation on codified laws for protecting women as well as the process
of approaching formal courts so that more women start accessing the formal institution of justice
Majority of the tribal respondents believed and asserted that women’s status was good and that it
has improved over the last ten years. The literacy rate has improved sharply among females as
compared to males. Government schemes like MGNREGA and Self-help groups are giving more
financial power to women, asserting a positive change. The health status of the state is better than
the national standards and is improving steadily. However, improvement in the health sector has
only touched the urban women. The rural tribal women are still under privileged and their access
to health care remains an issue of concern.
The distribution of power and authority of the society is unequal and favors the men. The status
and role of women is limited to the domains of family. In some rural areas marriages happen
before the attainment of legal age of marriage. In terms of divorce, the participants asserted that
the decisions are always in favour of men. Although women are entitled to equal right to property
and inheritance, it is seldom practiced.
The decision making power for major decisions of family like buying assets largely stays with the
male. Women are still economically dependent on men to a large extent. However, where
decisions regarding daily household, household expenditure and children’s education are
concerned, the decision making is shared.
Women’s participation in politics is increasing. Two most important and functional institution that
have come up are the Tripura State Women’s Commission and Women Police stations. Tripura
has a 3 tier Panchayati Raj system, Tribal Autonomous district Council for tribal population and
Municipality with 50% reservation for women in each of those institutions. The 50% reservation
in all the grassroots level institutions has given opportunities to women to be represented which
has encouraged women to become more active also in other socio-political positions in Tripura.
The number of women in government offices is increasing. Although there is improvement of
women's political participation at the ground level, at the top level there are still very few women
The government and NGOs have followed the Equal Remuneration Act, but in the unorganized
sector women still get less payment.
Violence against women in Tripura is the most emerging problem in the present scenario. Tripura
has reported the highest rate of crime against women at 37.0 during the year 2011 as compared to
18.9 crime rate at the National level. Other than dowry and domestic violence, there is one more
social evil for women in the form of “w itch hunting” in some rural tribal areas.
There are formal justice delivery systems in place but they are not effective as most people are
unable to access them, primarily due to lack of awareness as well as opaqueness and complexity
of procedures. Respondents expressed they have started to lose faith in the formal justice system.
However, the traditionally or customary avenues for justice system are perceived as anti-women.
Violence against women in Tripura is a great concern. Laws designed for protection of women
must be enforced more effectively, including the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, to put the access to justice in more active mode and to take faster
action. Even though the 50% reservation for women up to the municipal level is encouraging,
women must be present in the State Legislative Assembly also.
As attempted in this study, detailed research on Customary Laws and practices in the 6th schedule
areas needs to be carried out urgently. Better accessibility of the justice system is required and
documentation of the customary laws and practices needs to be taken up by NGOs and
Universities. There should be a strong network and lobbying for women’s access to justice where
the efforts of NGO’s, Civil Society Organizations and Government Departments come together
and ensure that the awareness initiatives on women’s rights take into consideration the situation of
tribal women and customary laws - this process should be undertaken by State Legal Service
Authority and the State Department of Law.
Mizoram has a patriarchal social structure. Women in Mizoram do not face gender based
discrimination in education opportunities, or practices such as honour killings or dowry deaths as
prevalent in other parts of India. Mizoram also enjoys one of the healthiest sex ratio in the country,
which implies that the birth of a girl child is not unwanted or unwelcomed. Women can marry a
partner of their choice. Mizoram has a higher percentage of female voters than male voters.
Women are visible in the State, after Kerala, Mizo women have the highest level of literacy.
Women enjoy the freedom to pursue their career or higher education outside the state. Women are
the key in-charge of the main bazaars, shops, restaurants, hotels, government offices, NGOs,
private organizations and even Church bodies. Mizoram woman are seen to enjoy freedom in
social and domestic life.
These notions build up an inference that women enjoy high equality in stature and position with
their male counterparts. A close study or even an understanding of the Mizo society would
however reveal a different picture. The equality in Mizoram is not a reality. The status of Mizo
women continues to remain a cause of concern due to the strong prevalence of traditional
Even in case a woman works outside, she is expected to carry out the household work without help
from her husband. Women are expected by the society to behave according to the traditional
notions; she is expected to be quiet, docile, hard working and able to abide by men.
Women are discriminated in the society through the customary laws and traditional practices. The
rudimentary laws are highly unfavourable to women taking away their right to property,
inheritance and custody of children in case of divorce. The Mizo Divorce Ordinance calls for
alimony for divorced women and a right to claim custody of her children, both of which are
hitherto absent from the highly male dominated customary laws The Mizo Divorce Ordinance has
not been passed by the Mizoram State Legislative Assembly. There are no women members in the
The patriarchal structure of the society restricts women from participating in the decision making
processes. While a large number of women are employed in the formal or informal sector, the
percentage of women in the top-ranking, decision-making positions is dismal. The Village
Council, the District Council and the Mizoram Legislative Assembly do not prohibit women from
participating in elections; yet, the dismal and almost negligible representation of the women year
after year creates a worrisome situation.
Interviews conducted through primary research speak highly in favour of equality for women. In
the past, women were not able to fight for their rights because of low awareness levels. The
situation has changed with increase in the level of education and employment of women. The
work done by women’s organisations like MIZO HMEICHHE INSUIHKHAWM PAWL, MHIP,
raising awareness and lobbies for women’s rights at the ground and the state level is exemplary.
Customary laws must be documented by the State Department of Law with support of Universities
and NGOs. Discriminatory practices regarding property, inheritance, participation in decision
making institutions and custody of children must be eliminated by amending the customary laws.
The process has already been initiated by local NGOs and CSOs requesting amendments of the
customary laws and particularly to ensure inheritance rights for women.
The Mizo Divorce Ordinance, which recognises the financial right of a divorced woman along
with claim of custody of her children, needs to be passed by the Legislative Assembly.
Women must enjoy equal rights to participate fully in the decision making in the Village Councils,
the District Councils and in the Legislative Assembly. The research shows that there is a wide
acceptance of quota for women to encourage participation in politics and traditional institutes.
Reservation of 1/3 seats in the Aizawl Municipal Council elections in 2010, guaranteed
representation of women in the council. Reservation should be extended to all the political
institutions and it can be introduced for a limited period of time, for example 30 years, to boost
participation of women. It could be later terminated in a phased manner once the notion of women
in higher decision making roles and positions is entrenched.
The Campaigns for women empowerment are needed, as the mindset of male superiority is strong.
Both Government and Civil Society Organizations must collaborate in organizing a state wide
campaign that also reaches the tribal areas, where the traditional customary laws are applied.
Exposure Trip Feedback and Recommendations
An exposure trip was designed for 25 women from the five districts. 5 women were selected from
each of the targeted districts to experience the working of Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) in
other states of India. This was to increase women’s understanding of the role and participation of
women in a PRI set up. The women selected for the exposure trip had political aspirations; some
of them already had experience in contesting elections and or were former or present members of
village councils. Considering the dismal level of women’s political participation in political
institutions (no representation in the higher bodies like Legislative Assembly or the Parliament), it
was necessary for these women to see how women played an important role in the Panchayati
system in other States. The exposure trip was divided into three groups, as it was not possible to
get all the 25 women leaders to travel together at one time.
Women from East Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya, visited New Delhi and
Rajasthan from 26th September to 29th September 2012. They experienced the working of the
Government through interaction with members of the National Resource Centre for Women
(NRCW), National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW). They were warmly welcomed
by the Additional Secretary and Mission Director, NMEW who provided them an overview of the
Mission. They also interacted with representatives of each domain of the mission and developed
an understanding on how various issues under various banners of gender rights, economic
empowerment, social empowerment, health and nutrition etc. impact women. They appreciated the
need for a convergent approach on all issues to holistically impact status of women.
The group also visited Support Services run by NGOs PRAYAS, Centre for Social Research and
Women Power Connect, Gender Resource Centre. They felt that the Gender Resource Centre is an
effective intervention unit to help women in distress. They found the unit innovative because of
the convergence of different departments in the State level and linkages between different allied
system to address women specific issues such as health, legal assistance and violence, making it
easier for women to access justice and support services within a community. The women also
appreciated that the financial resources are collected by one agency and then fully and efficiently
utilized to ensure optimum utilization and coverage.
The group travelled to Rajasthan and the women were impressed with the functioning of PRIs in
Bijolia, especially how the women Panchayat leaders worked to bring handpumps in the village
because of the long distance to fetch water. The participants found the women leaders in the
Panchayats energetic and proactive in working for development of the community. However, the
women recognized that in the cases of crime against women, the PRIs do not have the same level
of social legitimacy to intervene like the Dorbar Shnong in Meghalaya. They observed that people
do not approach the PRIs to seek justice for crimes. The women participants agreed that there
should be 33% reservation for women in Dorbar Shnong as in the PRIs.
Women from Lawngtlai, Mizoram, and Kohima, Nagaland, visited NGOs and the Panchayati Raj
Institution (PRI) in Naxalbari, Siliguri, West Bengal, from 27th to 29th of October 2012. They
were given an opportunity to interact with Adivasi Mahasabha Paashcham, Naxalbari Tea Estate,
Raipara Mahila Samiti and CONCERN that runs “APNEY” drop in Centre for Street Children.
Women from Tripura visited Siliguri, West Bengal, from 16 to 17 November 2012. They visited
NGOs, Panchayat Raj Institution and self help group of Jalpaiguri, World Vision project as well as
Cancer Relief Centre set up under the Mission Convergence programme of the Delhi Government,
to see women’s participation in politics and the role women played in different organisations for
The participants felt the exposure trip gave them an insight of collective movements and
institutions functioning for the development of women’s issues. They felt it was important to
witness how another state was addressing the issues on disparities in case of crime, justice,
divorce, marriage and inheritance amongst other issues. They were able to compare the political,
civil and economic rights of women as well as how the disputes are solved. They were impressed
to see active women in decision-making positions and wished that women in their home state
would also become more active toward improving the status of women. They were particularly
interested in how to create women-friendly policies and how the empowerment could spread to the
It is expected that these women that participated in the exposure trip, have a better understanding
on the importance of female representation in decision-making and leadership positions. It may
help them further in initiating debate or supporting any policies for the development of women.
The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution pertains to the administration of the tribal areas in
the North Eastern States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Article 371 A, B and G of
the Indian Constitution protects tribal laws applying in certain states such as Assam, Tripura, and
Nagaland. This guarantees a system of direct self-governance that ensures the tribal regions in the
North East preserve their existing systems of governance and provides protection to tribal rights.
While the intention of the 6
Schedule and Article 371 A, B and G is to ensure decentralisation
of power; there are no Panchayati Raj Institutions in these areas. Structures of functioning are
verydifferent from the Panchayati three-tier system. The equivalents of the Panchayats are the
Village Dorbars and Village Council Development Committees that dont have any mandate for
women representation unlike the Panchayati three-tier system. Therefore, there is no way to
ensure a minimum representation of women, as is now mandated in the panchayats. The local
equivalent of panchayats, that is, the local durbar or the village council development committees,
as exist in Meghalaya and Assam respectively, restricts women’s participation. Hence, women
are unable to participate in decisions concerning governance, justice and interpretation of Tribal
laws. This may have the potential of limiting women’s access to the decision making process in
governance, justice and equitable promulgation and interpretation of local customary laws.
The Impulse NGO Network with a mission to work towards ensuring equal human rights for all
particularly women and children, undertook on behalf of the National Resource Centre for
Women (NRCW), National Mission for Empowerment of Women, Ministry of Women and Child
Development, Government of India (“NMEW”) an Action Research on ‘Access to Justice by
Women’ in the 5 districts of the North Eastern state Longtalai (Mizoram), West Tripura (Tripura)
Kohima (Nagaland), East Khasi Hills (Meghalaya) and Jaintia Hills (Meghalaya). The research
tried to understand women’s access to justice in select districts and if there is any relation a direct
or indirect between women’s access to justice and restrictions on political participation.
The Study has been funded under the ‘Project on Access to Justice for Marginalized People’
being implemented by the Department of Justice in the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government
of India (“DoJ”) with the support of the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) and is
in collaboration with and also administered by the NMEW in consultation with the DoJ.
Goals and Objectives
The research assessed the need of legal intervention in the community, its necessity and form
through a consultative process for the community. The findings of the study were shared withthe
respective State Governments to create protocols that address participation of women in
governance to empower them to address gender based violence. The research also examined
women’s leadership historically to determine whether women were ever a part of the process
and if so, then a comparative analysis with the present position of women was drawn.The factors
that contributing to decline or improvement as the case maybe, were particularly studied for
indentification, primarily to reform discriminatory cultural practices of the tribal community.
The research was conducted with the aim to create a basis for identifying opportunities of
convergence between in the, various stakeholders such as the community, local NGOs, tribal
community leaders and relevant state governments to increase women’s participation in
governance and access justice.
The methodology of research and study was a mix of various methods to collect data and
analyses. The following methods were used for primary data collection and secondary data.
Primary data was obtained through interviews, focus group and observations with emphasis on
qualitative data. For collecting primary data formal interviews schedules were administered. In
order to familiarize the field researchers who were appointed from the respective district, with the
interview schedules and method and data collection, training programme was organized.
Although most of the Field Researchers had prior experience of data collection, the training was
to familiarize them with the issue, and inculcate an overall understanding on conceptual
framework of access to justice.
Closed Ended Interviews
Interviews were conducted to collect primary data with close-ended type questionnaires with a
target of 70 questionnaires per district. The target respondents for these questionnaires were
individuals (men/women/youth) from different occupations. The open-ended questionnaire was
given so to get a general understanding of the common people of the issue in society. The data
was tabulated and analysed. The interviews were conducted for women, men and youth in the
profession of law, business, teaching, government or public service, NGOs and health-care. The
idea was to learn and understand views of people from different walks of life on access to justice
by women within the identified districts.
Focused Group Discussions
The Focused Group Discussions were used to collect data from various stakeholders like
women’s groups, men’s groups, community based organ izations, self-help groups, student
unions, etc to get a focused understanding of access to justice. This gave an understanding of
what people at the grassroots level feel and understand about the concept of women’s access to
justice and their awareness of the issue in their own state. Each Focused Group Discussion had a
minimum of 10 members and a maximum of 30. The target number of Focused Group
Discussions conducted was 11 in each district. The participants in the FGDs were mostly people
who have not had higher education. The discussions were documented and analyzed.
In-depth interviews with key informants were conducted with a target of 27 in each district using
a broad interview guide, audio recordings were used to transcribe and analyze. The key
informants included government officials from the Department of Social Welfare, State Womens’
Commission, Judiciary State, Labour Department, Education and Law Department, etc.
Politicians, media personnel, people with high stake holdings and expertise on the subject,
Professors and Head of the Departments of Colleges and Universities. The interviews had a mix
of high level to middle level officials especially those who interfaced with general public like
Protection Officers, Women’s cell, Probation Officers, etc.
Seminars and Consultations
The research study organized one seminar at each district, and one consultation at the state level.
District and state level dignitaries were invited where primary research findings were presented
and discussion/ recommendations were sought. The main reason for sharing the findings with
those who weren’t incorporated in the target groups was to develop a participatory approach. The
seminars included middle level people and consultatory dignitaries including high-level
government representatives. Feedback was taken to develop a consensus of the findings and
include recommendations done by a Rapporteur who documented the feedback from each district.
The research study also conducted exposure trips for rural women who were playing an important
role within the communities and were in a position to take leadership advocacy rolesin the
communities and carry forward the objectives of the research. One exposure trip for each district
comprising of 5 women representatives was organized, that is, totally 25 women.
The exposure trips conducted in three phases due to the difficulty of suitable dates for everyone.
The exposure trips were organized to visit a PRI area to understand the functioning and the role
women play in it. This helped the participants analyze their schedule areas, contributing to cross-
learning for use in activating the women’s roles in their own areas. Interaction with government
representatives and other organizations who acted as support services was also facilitated.
Towards the end of the trip, feedback was taken in the form of a questionnaire.
Secondary data was collected from various sources. The research study looked at records of
government departments that had data on various aspects of access to justice for women. Data
was also collected from universities, colleges, newspapers, magazines and journals.
Customary laws on topics regarding women and their access to justice in each district were
reviewed. A comparative analysis between these customary laws and Indian statutory laws
wasdrawn for an understanding of the differential status of women’s access to justice.
Design of the Report
The entire report is broken down into five district wise reports. Each district report begins with an
introduction of the state, its history, geographic and demographic features, moving on to the
understanding of women’s status and rights, women's participation in Governance and Judiciary,
violence against women and women's access to justice for the crimes they may have exper ienced.
The report ends with conclusions which also highlight key findings and provide
recommendations to help the state improve women’s rights and create a gender sensitive
After the data was collected, it was verified, processed and presented in tables and graphs to
facilitate data analysis and interpretations. The primary data was carried out keeping in mind the
overall perspective of the research study and by comparing, correlating, wherever needed. Efforts
were made to integrate the data received from all different categories of instrument.
Duration of the Study
The study was conducted between August 1
and November 30
The study was conducted in districts already identified by the NMEW and DoJ. It was originally
intended to also be conducted in two districts of Assam: Chirang and Kokrajhar. However, due to
ethnic violence in these areas, the study could not proceed forward there given the short duration
of the study.
It is understood that the findings from the identified districts is merely indicative of the district
and cannot be taken as a reflection of the situation in the entire state. This is because of the
multiple tribes in the states that vary from district to district. Hence, findings from one district
may not necessarily apply to another. This study can be best viewed as a rapid assessment to
understand if a mismatch exists in women’s ability to access justice in these non-panchayati raj
areas in the absence of reservation for them. Depending on the findings, a more detailed study is
required to properly appreciate the issue for a state-wide reflection.
Also, athough the study and this report is designed to cover 5 districts, no comparative analysis
between the districts can be undertaken on the same rationale stated above.
During interviews by the research team, phrases such as “mainland”, “parallel courts” etc. did
come up in people’s conversation being the normal way in which they refer to their tribal bodies
and distinguish the same from usual structures in states with panchayati raj. This should not be
taken in any manner to detract from the legitimacy of the Indian Government, Indian Courts and
the Constitution of India and their application over the northeastern states.
District Wise Reports:
Nagaland – District Kohima
Consultation meeting held in Nagalandon 9
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
A. Introduction of the Respondent Group
The primary data collection was conducted in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland in 7
2012. Respondents of Close-Ended Questionnaire
There were 70 respondents to the close-ended questionnaire. Of those, 38 (54%) were women and
32 (46%) were men. The participants were selected based on occupation with a focus on lawyers,
entrepreneurs, engineers, NGO-workers, teachers, police, media personnel, government
employees, church workers, nurses and doctors.
Occupation Female Male Total Respondents
Lawyer 2 3 5
Enterpreneur 8 1 9
Engineer 2 4 6
NGO-worker 2 3 5
Teacher 7 2 9
University Scholar 0 1 1
Police 0 5 5
Media personnel 5 1 6
Government employee 5 6 11
Church Worker 3 4 7
Nurse 2 0 2
Doctor 2 2 4
Total 38 32 70
Total in% 54 % 46 % 100 %
40 (57%) respondents were between 26-35 years. 61 (87%) respondents were less than 46 years
old. The larger number of younger respondents was not by design. The young age of the
respondents may be partly explained by their willingness to participate in the research. Also, many
of the professions targeted are relatively new in Nagaland and generally require higher education,
of which the younger generations have had better access.
Age Respondents %
Under 25 8 11 %
26-35 40 57 %
36-45 13 19 %
46-55 5 7 %
56-65 4 6 %
over 65 0 0 %
Total 70 100 %
Table 1. Age disaggregation of the respondents
Education Level Respondents %
12th Passed 1 1 %
Graduate 32 46 %
Post-Graduate and Above 37 53 %
Total 70 100 %
Table 2. Educational Level of the Respondents for close-ended questionnaire
39 (57%) of the respondents were single and 30 (43%) were married. One respondent did not
disclose her marital status. The large number of young respondents with higher education meant
that most of them were single.
Marital Status Respondents %
Single 39 57 %
Married 30 43 %
Divorced 0 0 %
No Response 1 1 %
Total 70 100 %
Table 3. Maritalstatus of respondents
Respondents of Focused Group Discussions
11 Focused Group Discussions (FGD) were conducted with 6 groups of women and 5 groups of
men. The size of the groups varied from 7 to 15 participants separated into groups of adult women
and men, students, non-tribal and women and men over 60 years old. In total, 127 people
participated in the FGD, 66 (52%) women and 61 (48%) men. Participants in the FGD were
selected based on a lack of higher education, with the exception of the groups of female and male
FocusedGroup Discussion Participants %
Adult Women 12 27 %
Women over 60 Years 7 6 %
Non-tribal Women 12 9 %
Female Graduate Students 13 10 %
Men over 60 Years 15 12 %
Male Graduate Students 15 12 %
Non-tribal Men 13 10 %
Female 66 52 %
Male 61 48 %
Total 127 100 %
Table 4. FGD, group division and Gender disaggregation
In-depth interviewees were selected according to their professional position, 13 interviewees were
women and 14 men.
In-depth Interviewee Gender Date
1. Media Personnel Male 8.8.2012
2. State Women's Commission Female 9.8.2012
3. NGO Director Female 9.8.2012
4. Seniormost Psychiatric Male 9.8.2012
5. Extra Assistant Commissioner Female 10.8.2012
6. Women's Organization Female 10.8.2012
7. IndividualActivist Female 10.8.2012
8. Magistrate Female 11.8.2012
9. Church Leader Male 11.8.2012
10. Public Prosecutor Male 13.8.2012
11. Deputy Inspector General of Police Male 13.8.2012
12. Magistrate Male 13.8.2012
13. Women Secretary, Church Council Female 14.8.2012
14. Commissioner, IAS Female 14.8.2012
15. Social Welfare Department Female 16.8.2012
16. Election Department Female 16.8.2012
17. Student Union Leader Male 16.8.2012
18. Social Welfare Department Male 17.8.2012
19. State AIDS Control Society Female 18.8.2012
20. Home Secretary Female 21.8.2012
21. Labour and Employment Department Male 21.8.2012
22. Customary Court Males 22.8.2012
23. Women Development Department Female 22.8.2012
24. Higher Education Department Male 23.8.2012
25. Home Secretary Male 24.8.2012
26. Health and Family Department Male 24.8.2012
27. Commissioner, IAS Male 25.8.2012
B. Introduction to the State of Nagaland
Post-colonial India created the state of Nagaland in 1963. Located in the extreme northeastern
region, the state has common boundaries with Myanmar in the East, Assam in the West,
Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in the North and Manipur in the South. The state covers an area of
16,579 square kilometers, comprised of 11 administrative districts with 52 blocks and 1286
villages inhabited by a population of approximately 2 million. The landscape is made up of forests,
mountains, valleys and rivers. The altitude varies from 200 meters in the plains to 3,840 meters in
Government of Nagaland, http://nagaland.nic.in/profile/history/about.htm
The ancestors of present day Nagaland citizens migrated over many years from Mongolia, China,
Myanmar and Thailand. Before the 19th century, Naga villages were sovereign republics. Contact
with the outside world was minimal, limited to brutal inter-village wars and head-hunting
practices. In the early 19th century, the arrival of the British paved way for a gradual opening of
the village walls and Naga tribes began interacting with each other. The presence of British and
Christian missionaries modified traditional governance, culture and social practices. These
outsiders brought written script and education, while forming associations and shaping tribal
After colonization, the region fell under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Assam and was
designated a ‘centrally administered area.’ Because of civil unrest and the fear of a popular
uprising, the federal government created the state of Nagaland – the 16th state of India.
Nagas are an indigenous people living in a patriarchal tribal society. There are 17 different tribes
divided in various sub-tribes; each of which boasts it’s own language, culture and customs that are
passed down orally from generation to generation. Inspite of language and cultural barriers, the
Nagas view themselves as brothers and sisters who share the same blood and a common history.
Nagaland today is in a state of change. Its borders are open to the influence of the outside world,
resulting in frequent clashes with the values of previous generations.
Population Male 1,025,707
Area 16,579 km 2
Kohima, Dimapur, Mokokchung, Tuensang,Mon,
Districts Wokah, Phek, Zunheboto, Peren, Kiphire, and
Average Rainfall 2,500mm
Saramati in kiphire District (3,840 meters above Mean
Main Rivers Dhansari, Doyang, Dikhu, Melak, Tizu, and Zungki
Literacy Rate 80,11%
Table 5. Nagaland at a Glance
C. Nagaland & Article 371A
Under Article 371 (A), a special provision of the Indian Constitution, Nagaland enjoys special
status which ensures that "No Act of Parliament shall apply to Nagaland in relation to religious or
social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and
criminal justice involving decisions according to the Naga customary law and ownership and
transfer of land and its resources.”
Talitemjen & Lanunungsang (2005) p.10
Government of Nagaland, http://nagaland.nic.in/profile/history/about.htm
Government of Nagaland, http://nagaland.nic.in/profile/history/about.htm
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2005) p. 2
Census of India, Provisional Population Total Papers 2 of 2011: Nagaland
Article 371A, Constitution of India (1949)
It has been commented that Article 371(A) is protecting the traditional customs, sometimes at the
expense of development of the state. “--the political class in Nagaland including the pr esent and
past regimes, they have been good at picking and choosing, what should come under the
protection of Article 371 (A) and what should not. Even the Naga civil society or the various tribal
hohos would perhaps acknowledge the utility afforded by this constitutional provision. However
the other argument is that Article 371 (A) has hindered the progress of our State and society.”
Article 371A has been used against the Lokayukta Bill designed to tackle corruption; the Nagaland
Marriage Bill, has been designed to provide proof of a valid marriage in case of divorce or denial
of matrimony. The Article was also used to block the 33% reservation for women up to the level
of municipal politics.
D. Customary Laws in Nagaland
Like most tribes in North East India, Nagaland combines allegiance to the formal legal system of
the Indian Constitution with adherence to their own tradition or customary law in their civil, social
and cultural life. Customary laws are traditional rules to maintain order in the village that can be
traced back over centuries. The laws are not codified; they are orally transmitted from generation
Even though there are many commonalities, all the 1286 villages practice their own customary
laws; their own traditions, interpretations and customs.
Punishment for the crime of rape for
example can vary from a nominal fine to a brutal beating and excommunication. This variance
makes it a challenge to present the position of customary laws as a whole, when it comes to
specific issues. The law also differs within each village according to the circumstances. Customary
laws are flexible. Generally there are no fixed penalties or fines- and are determined case by case
taking in consideration the financial situation and background of the respondent.
Customary laws have a gender dimension and dictate the division of work on the basis of gender
and define the civil, political, economic and social rights differing widely for women and men.
Customary laws also dictate the consequences and punishments of a wide range of crimes –
including those of violence against women.
Customary laws represent centuries-old values passed down by ancestors. Even though the society
is ever-changing and modernity is altering the traditional mindset - especially in urban areas - the
customary laws have remained the same. Hence, Nagas live within the clash of two sets of values.
The position of a woman is especially contradictory. It has been commented that traditional
customs lack gender sensitivity of modern values and exclude women from public sphere,
relegating them to the role of a servant to the husband.
TheMourung Express, Continuity and Change
The Telegraph (2012)
Fernandes, Bharali (2008) p. 93-100
In-depth Interviews; Customary Court and Individual Activist, Government Officials 9.8-25.8.2012
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2005) p. 2-5
A general view of these customary laws including examinations of specific issues is presented
under respective topics as the findings of the study are presented.
E. State Institutions for Women in Nagaland
Within the last 10 years, the State Government has taken steps to improve the situation of women
in Nagaland by establishing a separate Women Development Department in 2003-2004 and
Nagaland State Women Commission in 2006. The new institutions, despite limited resources, have
brought more attention to the problems that women face.
The Women Development Department, WDD, comes under the Ministry of Women and Child
Development and concentrates mostly on the economic empowerment of women. The department
is based in Kohima and lacks infrastructure at the district level but it has the power to collaborate
with Social Welfare Department when necessary and can rely on Apex Women Organizations to
actualize and monitor the programmes.
The Nagaland State Women Commission was established in 2007. Its function is to study and
raise awareness of women’s issues like promoting empowerment and recommending plans of
action to the government. They run awareness and sensitization programmes in all districts. The
organization also sets up inquiry committees in cases of violence against women and provides help
for the victims.
FINDINGS OF THE STUDY (PRIMARY AND SECONDARY RESEARCH)
A. Women’s Status in Nagaland
“Women’s status in Nagaland - it appears beautiful and quite good but it is not.”
Naga women are seen to be among the most empowered women in the country, enjoying great
personal freedom and a cultural status. They socialize and interact freely with men. However, this
relatively high status is not to be confused with equality. When comparing the rights of each
gender sector by sector, results show Naga women are far from being equal to Naga men.
Nagaland has a patriarchal social structure with a notion of male superiority.
Women do not
have the right to inherit ancestral land. They are represented politically exclusively by men and the
traditional customary laws are created, interpreted and implemented by men.
The recognition of
Naga customary laws in Article 371 (A) of the Constitution of India has an adverse impact upon
the rights of the women. The women-friendly laws enjoyed by the rest of India can be rendered
toothless by article 371A; and the customary laws that are gender-insensitive are protected with
the force of Constitution.
Women Development Department (2012)
Nagaland State Women Commission
In-depth Interview, women organization, 9.8.2012
Fernandes, Bharali (2008) p.97, Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2001)
Jamir (2009) p. 18
Indepth-Interview, Individual Activist, 10.8.2012
Kikhi & Kikhi (2009) p. 14
A.1 Women’s Status Traditionally
Men are regarded as superior to women and it is considered an honor to be born as a male-women
are burdened with several customary bindings with hardly any privileges.
A woman’s domain is within the domestic sphere. She is a homemaker and a family caretaker. Her
responsibilities include care of the husband and children, household chores such as cooking,
washing and cleaning; invisible work that can often go unappreciated. Women are also deeply
involved in agriculture, doing everyday work in the fields.
Men’s role traditionally is to protect the women and the village. Because of the need to safeguard
the village, men’s role in agriculture is limited to work that requires more physical power. As a
result, men’s work is more seasonal. According to tradition, women carried the tools to t he fields
and walked in front of the men, so men could protect them in case of danger.
Men’s traditional role included attending meetings and making decisions. Women were not
allowed to attend these meetings. Women should not go against her husbands. They can express
their opinion but the final decision is to be taken by the head of the family, invariably a male.
Matrilineal Practices among the Nagas in the Past
The studies of Naga communities in the early 19th century give another viewpoint into the
traditional patriarchal Naga society. There are suggestions of matrilineal system among some
Naga clans. There are a few clans, such as Lhota Tsoboi and Sema Zumoni, who trace their
descent to a female ancestress – a fact they today are ashamed to admit. The Ao village Sangtamla
was traditionally governed by female elders and the neighboring village Kabza had a female
among the village elders. Certain names of the villages and marital practices give indications of
matrilineal structure. Nevertheless, the matrilineal practices are currently overlooked and even
A.2 Women’s Status Today
“Being a patriarchal society, without intentions to do so, we do give preference to the male
Over the years women have started to break through their traditionally imposed domestic walls
and enter into the public sphere. In the field of education especially girls are excelling.
Nevertheless, the traditional customs continue to hold women back.
70 respondents were asked to specify women’s role in Nagaland.
Talitemjen Jamir & Lanunungsang (2005) p.220
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2005) p. 40-41
Talitemjen Jamir & Lanunungsang (2005) p.217
Talitemjen Jamir & Lanunungsang (2005) p.216-223
Hutton (1912) p. 131-132, Hutton (1965)
In-depth Interview, Police Official, 13.8.2012
47 (67%) expressed that women’s role is confined to the domestic sphere, women are subordinate
or that women do not enjoy equal rights as men. 10 (14%) do not feel women’s role is confined to
the domestic sphere. 10 (14%) respondents did not respond to the question, 3 did not specify the
status of women, stating it depends on the family and that women should be a good example to the
The question put to 70 respondents was “Do men have more authority/power than women?”
The respondent group comprised of 32 men and 38 women.
62 (89%) said yes and 8 (11%) said no.
Respondent who felt men have more authority/power than women were asked to articulate the
type of authority/power men have.
57 (92%) of the 62 respondents specified that the customary laws and traditions gave preference to
men, obliging the women to respect men’s superior position and their decisions.
52 (85%) of the 62 respondents thought male dominance is political; men have more political
power because women are not allowed to participate- at least not fully - in politics.
41 (66%) of the 62 respondents felt men had more economic control than women. They felt
women are not financially independent; they do not have equal property and inheritance rights.
Generally men are providers of income to the family, whereas women constitute the major
workforce in subsistence agriculture. Therefore, money is often considered to be a manly affair.
The traditional mindset is changing as more women are working outside of the family especially in
urban areas becoming a source of money income for the family.
B. A Woman’s Control over Herself
B.1 Women’s Labour Rights
Customary Laws and Traditions on Women and Work
Traditionally a woman works within the domestic sphere. Customary laws do not prohibit women
from having a salaried job but because of household and farming responsibilities, many women do
not have enough time to work on top of family obligations. Many women have to leave their jobs
after getting married.
Women’s Labour Rights Today
According to a study conducted in 2001 among Angamis, women made up two thirds of the
graduate and post-graduate degree holders among family members but were only 22.16% of those
holding salaried jobs.
Women are mostly involved in subsistence farming to support the family. While almost half of the
women are involved in work outside of the family, only 20% earn cash from this work.
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 18.8.2012
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2001)
Around 14% of women have professional, technical or managerial occupation, which is 6
percentage points more than in average in India.
However, only 7.4% of the women have a bank
account that they themselves use.
employed in the earning cash technical/
past 12 months managerial
Nagaland 45,9 21,5 13,9
India 43,1 28,5 8
Percentage of women age 15-49 employed in the past 12 months, earning cash, and
employed in professional/technical/managerial occupations, NFHS-3
Working women face prejudices. There is gender division regarding the professions and the tasks
within each profession. Often the task division is explained by the necessity of physical strength,
but in many cases the division is based on stereotype removed from reality. For example,
policewomen are not allowed to drive police cars, even if they are experienced drivers.
Government is the biggest employer in Nagaland. The private sector is almost non-existent in the
state. The extortion money demanded by insurgency groups makes it difficult for private sector to
turn a profit discouraging entrepreneurship. The resulting lack of employment oppurtunities for the
entire population cause educated people to look for employment opportunities elsewhere.
Equal Pay from Equal Work and Maternity Benefit Act
Government employees are paid equally regardless of gender but in many other fields women
receive less pay for equal work. There are instances where Village Councils decide the salary rates
for various work and women’s daily wage is fixed to be Rs. 10-50 less than the men’s for the same
job. The reason is the perception that women cannot work as hard as men.
The Maternity Benefit Act functions in the Government sector but has not been embraced by the
private sector. There is neither proper implementation nor monitoring of the Acts and the
awareness level is low. In Nagaland no woman has presented a complaint regarding either Act.
Schemes and Programmes Supporting Women’s Employment
The Women Development Department supports a sustainable livelihood for women. They run a
textile project to promote artisans weaving traditional designs. There are also around 2000 Self
Help Groups under the Transformative Livelihood Intervention project, which support groups to
produce different commercial products.
Kishor & Gupta (2009) p. 52
Kishor & Zehol (2009) p. 68
In-depth Interview, Police Official, 13.8.2012
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 23.8.2012
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 23.8.2012
The Women Development Department promotes entrepreneurship with 3 different credit programs
under the Transformative Livelihood Intervention project the Self Help Groups are entitled to Rs.
25000 loans. The Department decided to offer loans rather than grants, because in Nagala nd
people are accustomed to free government money. The hope is that a loan will provide more
incentive to work hard. The Department reports a 100% success rate regarding the loan offers. The
other 2 credit programmes are for women entrepreneurs, one for women to start their own business
and the other for women who want to up-scale their existing business.
B.2 Women’s Right to Education
Customary Laws and Traditions on Girls’ Education
Traditionally girls did not have access to same education as boys since it belonged to the social
sphere. A mother taught the girls at home to perform the household duties.
Formal education in Nagaland was introduced in the 1880s with the arrival of American
missionaries, coinciding almost exactly with the advent of British colonial power. For more than a
century only male children were sent to school. Because male children are charged with
continuing the family line, it became more important for sons to be educated than daughters.
Women’s Rights to Education Today
“Being a patriarchal society, without intentions to do so, we do give preference to the male
Girls’ education has been improved over the years and financially sustainable families provide
their daughters an equal opportunity regarding their education. The Department of School
Education promotes literacy in Nagaland and has enjoyed some success; the literacy rate has
climbed to 80.11%.
In the primary school level, the enrollment rate of girls is slightly lower than
it is for boys. The dropout rate for girls is higher than boys’. The higher dropout rate may be
attributed to the fact that girls are traditionally burdened with farming and household works. This
may also contribute to the difference in literacy between genders.
Literacy Rate In Nagaland 80,11 %
Male 83,29 %
Female 76,69 %
Literacy Rate in Nagaland.
In Nagaland there are 1924 primary and secondary Government schools. There are also private
schools and institutions as well as 115 schools of different levels run by Baptist churches.
Government Primary Schools 1459
Government Middle Schools 340
Government High Schools 109
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2005) p. 199
In-depth Interview, Lawyer, 9.8.2012
In-Depth Interview, Police Official, 13.8.2012
Census of India, 2011
Department of School Education, Government of Nagaland, In-depth Interview, Individual Activist, 10.8.2012
Government Higher Secondary Schools 16
Number of Government Schools in Primary and Secondary Level in Nagaland.
In 2011-2012, 1083 more boys than girls began higher education studies in Nagaland, 458 more in
Government Colleges and 625 in Private Colleges.
Academic year Boys Girls Total
2007-08 4097 2918 7,015
2008-09 4072 3165 7,237
2009-10 4813 3964 8,777
2010-11 4726 4089 8,815
2011-12 4581 4123 8,704
Student’s Enrollment in Government Colleges.
Academic year Boys Girls Total
2007-08 9278 8720 17,998
2008-09 9230 8913 18,143
2009-10 10,282 9617 19,899
2010-2011 10,723 10,084 20,807
2011-2012 10,761 10,136 20,897
Student’s Enrollment in Private Colleges.
In Nagaland, education has a stronger correlation to family’s income than average in India. In the
lower levels only 1.5% of females and 0.3% of males have at least 10 years of education, while in
the wealthiest quintile the rates are 66.1% and 75.5% respectively. The education level in
Nagaland is some percentage points lower than the average in India.
Percentage of women and men age 20-49 who have at least 10 years of education by wealth
quintile, NFHS-3, India
Percentage of women 20-49 with 10+ years of education
Wealth Quintile Lowest Second Middle Fourth Highest Total
Nagaland 1,5 1,4 8 29,6 66,1 22,7
India 1,1 3,2 9,9 24,7 61,6 24,4
Percentage of men 20-49 with 10+ years of education
Wealth Quintile Lowest Second Middle Fourth Highest Total
Nagaland 0,3 6,7 19,7 42,3 75,1 31,4
India 5,9 13,4 24,9 43,1 73,5 36,6
Percentage of women and men age 20-49 who have at least 10 years of education by wealth quintile, by state, NFHS-3, India
Government schools in Nagaland are not totally free but the tuition is only a fraction of that paid
in private schools. The quality of education however, is questioned by society: “ The government
also admits that their schools are a failure.”
Department of Higher Education, Government of Nagaland
Kishor & Gupta (2009) p. 29
In-depth Interview, Church Worker, 11.8.2012
Among the Naga students, a degree on Education is among the least popular study programmes.
Teacher’s salaries are rather low and as a result it can be difficult to find competent teachers who
wish to stay and teach in the rural areas. Currently both School and Higher Education Departments
are focusing on improving the quality of education.
People’s Perception on Women’s Education in Nagalan dhave
70 respondents were questioned “How has the women’s rights to education changed in he last 10
66 (94%) said that women’s right to education has improved.4 (6%) did not answer the question.
No respondent said women’s right to education had decreased in the past 10 years. 31 (44%)
respondents specified that girls have currently an equal opportunity as boys toeducation.
Schemes and Programmes for women in education and vocational training
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) scheme’s vision includes reducing the gender
gap in education. The scheme offers a Special Stipend for girls. In the elementary level, class 6 to
8, there are currently 1965 beneficiaries and in the secondary leve l, class 9 to 10, there are 858
beneficiaries. There is also another programme that covers 100% education costs for 161 girls and
still counting, it is called: Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education. There is also a Post-Matric
Scholarship for students belonging to minority communities with 30% of its funds earmarked for
Because of the lack of opportunities in Nagaland, the Department of Higher Education has
programmes to sponsor students to go to New Delhi to get vocational training in programmes such
as beauty, spa therapy as well as hair and nail treatments. The government annually sponsors 75%
of the studies for around 500 students. Most of these students remain back in the bigger cities in
India upon completion of their studies.
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 17.8.2012
Department of School Education, Government of Nagaland
Department of Higher Education, Government of Nagaland
In Kohima, the Women Development Department offers vocational training for women, especially
targeting school dropouts and single mothers. Skills taught include weaving, knitting and tailoring,
the training lasting 10 months. The students are given a stipend of Rs. 600 per month. Every year
about 70 students take part in the training. More centers are under construction in other districts.
B.3 Women’s Right to Health
“The primary health centers in all districts are ba dly understaffed, doctors do not want to live in
the villages, there is a poor infrastructure and the health facilities do not meet the necessary
The network of health institutions throughout the State consist of 11 District Hospitals, 21
Community Health Centers (CHCs), 86 Primary Health Centers (PHCs), 397 Sub-Centers (SCs), 2
Tuberculosis (TB) Hospitals, 1 Mental Hospital and the Naga Hospital Authority Kohima
(NHAK) –as the State Referral Hospital.
According to a 2005 study, Nagaland has less than 500 doctors, including 98 specialists, to serve a
population of 2 million.
Students have to go outside of Nagaland to study medicine and only a
portion return to work and of those who return only a small fraction are willing to work in rural
areas, where the need for doctors is high.
Private hospitals are generally well reviewed but are
not a viable option for most of the people. Private hospitals are found only in urban areas and the
payment involved is too high for most.
Family planning services for women
The government has made a concerted effort to provide family planning services in Nagaland.
There are no traditional or religious restrictions on family planning. In the patriarchal society,
where only males carry the clan name and hold inheritance rights, male children are always given
preference. Often couples keep trying until they get a male heir, which can lead to larger
families.According to the State Human Development Report 2004 the total fertility rate (TFR) in
Nagaland was 3.77. The NFHS-3 (2005-06) shows a slightly lower figure of 3.74. The District
Human Development Report 2009 does not present any figures on the matter because the statistics
were “either unavailable or unreliable”.
Family planning services are provided in private and government hospitals as well as in health
centers at the village level. According to DLHS -2 from 2002-2004, female sterilization is the
most widely known (67%) of all contraceptive methods, followed by pills (41%) and condoms
(41%). Male sterilization was known to only 32% of the respondents.
Women Development Department, Nagaland
In-depth Interview, Individual Activist, 10.8.2012
Menukhol; Longkumer & Kejong (2011) p. 3
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 24.8.2012
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 24.8.2012
According to the same study in Nagaland a total of 34 percent women are found to have had an
unmet need for family planning, 15 percent for limiting the number of children and 19 percent for
spacing between the children. The total unmet need varies from as low as nine percent in
Zunheboto to a high 68 percent in Tuensang. Unfortunately, there are no recent statistics available.
70 respondents were asked: “Are you aware of family planning services?” 42 (60%) said yes, 17
(24%) said no. 1 (1%) did not answer the question and 27 (38%) said someone from their family
had used such a service.
127 respondents were questioned: “Is it easier toda y for women to decide how many children they
wish to have?” Of the respondents 66 (52%) wer e women and 61 (48%) were men.
19 (29%) women respondents said it has become easier for women to decide the number of
children. 34 (51%) women said it is a joint decision with the husband. 13 (20%) women stated that
men still had the final word.
The same question was asked of 61 male respondents.
(Change needed in the graph lanaguage)
25 (41%) said it has not become easier because men still decide or at least have the final word; 15
(25%) said it had become easier for women to decide the number of children they wish to have. 8
(13%) respondents said it was a joint decision with the husband. 15 (25%) men and graduate
students were inclined toward agreeing but said they lacked the experience to respond.
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) India 2005-06, Nagaland has natural
sex ratio at birth for births in past five years of 945. Sex ratio at birth for all last births to women
aged 15-49 is 938.
Abortion clinics are available in all 11 districts but they remain underutilized because of privacy
issues. Abortion might bring shame to the woman and her family. The woman may carry the
stigma for the rest of her life. Therefore, many women choose to go out of state for an abortion
and if they do not have resources to do- so they often resort to a risky ‘back-alley’ abortion.
Even though a male child is given preference, the daughters are not a burden for families because
of the absence of dowry practices along with the common practice of bride-money among many
tribes. Only 4 out of 197 respondents said there are instances of sex-selective abortions in
Commercial Sex Work and HIV/AIDS
Nagaland is listed as one of the six HIV/AIDS prevalent states in India. The National Family
Health Survey (NFHS-3) 2005-06, India was not able to give a proper estimate of HIV prevalence
in Nagaland due to a strong local opposition to the collection of blood samples due to support for
Naga sovereignity and its underlying notion of “common blood”.
According to the AIDS Case
Surveillance and ART report, out of the 3,933 cases 2,141 were male and 1,792 female. Dimapur
is a growing commercial sex center in North East India, which explains the increasing rate of
HIV/AIDS in Nagaland. Dimapur is a connecting point for highways in North East India.
Increasing business activities and the reputation for sex trade bringing clients from different states
of North East India. Clients are mostly businessmen and truck drivers, but it is also a common
practice for Assamese male students to travel to Dimapur to get sexual experience.
Regarding the maternal mortality rate (MMR), according to the State Human Development Report
2004 the State’s figure is less than 1 death 1000 live births.
The same year the State
Communalization Committee’s report of Basic Health Survey states that MMR in Nagaland is 8
per 1000 live births; Kiphire district 33/1000, Dimapur and Longleng 13/1000, Peren 12/1000,
Phek 10/1000, Kohima 8/1000, Mon 4.27/1000, Wokha 3.48/1000, Mokokchung 0.7/1000 while
Kishor & Gupta (2009) p. 18
Interview with Government Official, 22.8.2012
Naga nationalistic aspirations and Naga sovereignty –movements are supporting their objective with th e ”common blood”
of Naga people. As Naga people transcend from different tribes coming from different back grounds, the blood sampling
might obstacle their aim to unite the Naga people
In-depth Interview, Government Official, Health Professional, 18.8.2012
Zunheboto district had no recorded cases of maternal mortality.
The District Human
Development Report 2009 does not present any figures on the matter because the statistics are
“either unavailable or unreliable”. This is still t he case in 2012. The Government explains the lack
of records due to the fact that in rural areas women are still having deliveries of babies in their
homes rather than going to an institutional labour room.
Schemes to Support Maternal Health and Institutional Delivery
Institutional delivery in Nagaland is among the lowest in the country with a figure of 12 percent.
IGMSY (Indira Gandhi Matitva Sayokh Yojana) covers only Kohima District. It is a conditional
maternity benefit scheme bascially for pregnant and lactating women introduced in 2010. Under
this scheme women get Rs. 4000; Rs. 1500 during registration and the remaining amount after
delivery. JSY (Janani Suraksha Yojana) specifically promotes institutional delivery in all of
Nagaland. If the delivery is done in the health centre the mother receives Rs. 700 and the person
who brings her to the health center is given Rs. 600.
There has been criticism of the programs by those who argue that while on paper everyone has
received the money, in reality mothers are often either not paid on time, paid a pittance or not paid
at all. When this was brought to the attention of the public the Department started paying mothers
two or three years after the delivery but still a majority of the women never received the money.
There are reports that mothers who are paid more for male children. There is one report of a
mother who was paid Rs 500 for a baby boy while another who had a girl child received only Rs
300 later on the same day.
C. Women’s Control within Family
The default position is reflected in this statement. Although the father is the head of the family the
mother is typically as involved in the family’s upkeep although without the authority.
C.1 Women’s Role in the Family
Women’s Duties in the Family
127 participants of Focused Group Discussions were asked: “What do you think are women’s
roles and responsibilities in the family? What are the household tasks women should do?”
Women’s duties were listed as:
Take care of the household; clean, wash and cook
Take care of children and educate them
Work on the fields, fetch water and firewood
Support husband to be a good leader
State Communalization Committee; Department of Health and Welfare, Govt.of Nagaland, Basic Health Profile of Villages
In Nagaland, 2004
National Family and health Survey (NFhS-3).
Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Nagaland, Annual Administrative Report 2011-2012
North East Network (2011)
Zehol & Zehol (1998) p. 80
Be socially acceptable
The 127 participants were asked, “Should women and men share the household work?”
85 (67%) said yes and 42 (33%) said no. The respondents who answered in the affirmative
included 52 (79%) women and 33 (54%) men. 14 (21%) women and 28 (46%) men stated that
household work is the duty of the wife.
Women and Decision Making in the Family
The question put to 70 respondents was “Who takes d ecisions on assets (house, car, land) in the
37 (53%) said decisions were made exclusively by the father/husband and 3 (4%) said exclusively
by the mother/wife. 28 (40%) said the decisions on assets were taken jointly by father and mother.
1 respondent specified that the father still had the final word. 2 (3%) said the decision was taken
by the elders of the family.
The question to 70 respondents was “Who takes decis ion on children’s education?”
11 (16%) said it was made exclusively by the father/husband and 2 (3%) said exclusively by the
mother/wife. 45 (64%) said the decisions regarding children’s education were made jointly by
father and mother. 3 (4%) said the decision was taken exclusively by the elders of the family and 2
(3%) said exclusively by the children themselves. 1 respondent said the decision was taken jointly
by parents and elders, 1 said jointly by father and children and 1 respondent said by elders and
children. 3 (4%) did not respond to the question.
The question to 70 respondents was “Who takes decis ions on household expenditure?”
4 (6%) said exclusively by the father/husband and 33 (47%) said exclusively by the mother/wife.
29 (41%) said the decisions on household expenditure was taken jointly by father and mother.
2 (3%) said daily decisions were taken exclusively by the elders and 2 respondents said jointly by
parents and elders.
The question to 70 respondents was “Who takes daily decisions in the family?”
1 (1%) said exclusively by the father/husband and 40 (57%) said exclusively by the mother/wife.
25 (36%) said the decisions on children’s education is taken jointly by father and mother. 2 (3%)
said daily decisions were taken exclusively by the elders and 2 respondents said jointly by parents
C.2 Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights
“Husband’s property comes from wife’s labour.”
Land and forest are the major economic resources for most of the Naga people. Families and
communities depend on the land they cultivate. Women form the greater part of the workforce in
the agricultural sector but generally they do not have the right to own the land they cultivate.
Naga tribes follow male dominant customary laws on inheritance and propriety rights, which
create gender biases with numerous inequalities. Women have only indirect rights to use the land
via their husband or father. Women also have limited or no access to external inputs such as
fertilizers and credit.
Only 7.4% of women in Nagaland have a bank account that they use
themselves, which is the lowest percentage in all of India.
Customary Laws on Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights
Property in Nagaland can be ancestral, acquired or gifted. Only men can inherit and control
ancestral land and immovable property. Acquired and gifted property can be given either to sons
or daughters, but it is more commonly given to the former and the gifted land for daughters is
Women are gifted usually only a share of the movable property, jewellery,
utensils, clothes, baskets and other tools of work.
Kikhi & Kikhi (2009) p. 64
Fernandes, Pareira, Khatso (2001)
Kikhi & Kikhi (2009) p.10
Kishor & Gupta (2009) p. 68
Kikhi & Kikhi (2009) p. 64
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2005)
Some tribes practice a custom, which allows women to possess ancestral immovable property
during her lifetime, but upon her death the property goes to the closest male relative. In an
exception to other tribes, the Kheja tribe practices a tradition that a woman inherits the property of
Women have weaker property and inheritance rights because they will share the property of their
husband and also because of the risk of a clan losing the property. The children belong to the clan
of their father, therefore inheriting land from the mother’s side means that the land will change
hands from the original ancestral line.
In the event that there are no male heirs, the property goes to the nearest male relative. The general
rule is that the widow can stay in the house for the rest of her lifetime and the daughters till they
get married. If the widow is childless, she does not have the right to stay in the house. Even
women with a financially sound background can be economically at risk without independent
resources in case of widowhood or a divorce.
In a divorce women do not get equal compensation and lose custody of male children. In the
Angami tradition if it is determined the woman is the reason for the divorce she needs to walk out
of the house wearing only her underwear. In Sema tradition, if the husband is found to be at fault,
the woman has a right to demand one third of the movable property acquired during the marriage
Ultimately, the family decides who they want to gift their property. However if the daughters
inherit the property, the male heirs can take the matter to court as they have the customary law on
“A Naga widow, a trained nurse with two daughters w as able to acquire landed property during
her long career in Government service. After her retirement, she made an affidavit dividing her
assets and savings between her two daughters and transferred the title to them immediately
because she was afraid that if she did not do this during her lifetime, her husband’s male siblings
and sons would manifest its tentacles with the blessing of customary laws and contest the will.
Exactly, what she dreaded most would happen after her death, instantly happened as soon as news
of the affidavit reached the husband’s clan men. The men went to court, citing customary laws,
which prohibited inheritance of any landed property by women and girls. After a serious debate in
the court, the widow could prove that she did not inherit those assets from her late husband but
rather ‘earned’ them through sheer hard labour over which the clan had no right and she won the
People’s attitudes for Women’s Property Rights
“Most women we feel discriminated. We feel disheart ened by knowing the fact that we don’t have
any property rights. But for me, as far as that ancestral property goes, as long as the law is there
we have to abide by that. We cannot rebel against that.”
In-depth Interview, Government official, 16.8.2012
In-depth Interview, Government Official, 18.8.2012
Fernandes, Pereira, Khatso (2005)
Kikhi & Kikhi (2009) p. 15; Newspaper Report, Nagaland Page, Dimapur, September 23rd, 2005
In-depth Interview, Judge, 11.8.2012
70 respondents were asked to identify whether women had equal property rights.
When asked about traditional property rights 65 (93%) said there are unequal property and
inheritance rights for women in Naga society. 2 (3%) stated the property is equally shared among
all the children. 2 (3%) respondents did not characterize the current situation but stated that the
current situation should be maintained. 1 (1%) did not respond to the question.
The question to 70 respondents was “How do you feel about the traditional property and
49 (70%) said they were against the traditional property distribution. They feel that women should
have equal property rights or at least a share of the property in exceptional cases. 15 (21%) said
traditional practices should be maintained. 6 (9%) did not disclose their position.
The 70 respondents consisted of 38 females and 32 males.
Gender disaggregation of opinion on traditional property and inheritance rights results were 30
(79%) women and 19 (60 %) men responding against traditional practices. 4 (11%) women and 11
(34%) men said the traditional practices should be maintained. 4 (11%) women and 2 (6%) men
did not answer the question.
C.3 Women’s Rights in Marriage
Customary Laws and Traditions on Marriage
In marriage women are to support and respect the husband who is the protector of the family.
Customary laws forbid marriage among the same clan and between certain clans; any couple going
against this tradition is not only fined but also banished from the village.
One exception is the
Konyak-tribe chiefs who are considered to be so sacred that their first wife should be a woman
from the same clan.
There are both monogamous and polygamous traditions. For example the Sema and the Lotha are
polygamous. A Sema man can have 5-7 wives; although the marriage is in some ways similar to a
purchase, women do have a right to veto. The bride-price depends on how hardworking and
skillful the woman is.
The first wife has an authority over the younger wives and she may also
decide with whom the husband will spend the night. In practice, only financially-sound men can
afford to marry many wives. The Lotha men can have up to three wives. The bride-price is high
and women do not have the freedom of choice. A husband may allow his brothers or nearest
relative on his father's side to have conjugal access to his wife when he is absent for any length of
According to the tradition of Khemnugan tribe a man can kidnap a girl whom he likes and
Jamir (1997) p. 65
Hutton )1912) p. 184-185
Raatan (2009) p. 105