Meghalaya High Court’s order to allow women to vote at villager councils is being hailed by the women in the state(AFP Photo/Representative)
Meghalaya High Court’s order to allow women to vote at villager councils is being hailed by the women in the state(AFP Photo/Representative)

Meghalaya women happy at being allowed to elect a village headman

Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) felt that it was high time women are given a more proactive role in the village council decision making instead of remaining confined to the kitchen.
By David Laitphlang | Hindustan Times, Shillong
PUBLISHED ON FEB 01, 2020 12:56 AM IST

Meghalaya High Court’s order allowing the women to vote in the election of traditional heads at the village level in the state has been welcomed by women bodies as a major reform with far-reaching social benefits.

Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq made this observation on January 28, in connection with the election of the headman of Nohwet village in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills District known worldwide for its famous living root bridges.

The Meghalaya Commission for Women (MCW) felt that it was a positive and welcome step in the right direction.

Speaking to HT, MCW Chairperson Theilin Phanbuh said, “Whenever the Commission interacted with Seng Kynthei (women councils) along with members of the Dorbar Shnongs (village councils), we always emphasized on the need to involve women more effectively at such local councils.”

She added, “This important judgement of the Hon’ble High Court indicates that the Dorbar Shnong can now function as an effective school of democracy and will encourage women to come forward and actively participate in the decision making while bridging the gap of gender inequality.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) felt that it was high time women are given a more proactive role in the village council decision making instead of remaining confined to the kitchen.

CSWO President and social activist Agnes Kharshiing who has been in the forefront fighting for the rights of women especially in rural areas revealed that there are many instances of persecution of families that are deprived of various government benefits such as PDS, health and other welfare schemes as punishment for their women not supporting the ruling dispensation at the village council level.

She said, “Even those who apply for schemes have to go through units of political parties especially the ruling ones. There are single-parent families with only women heading them, who are not allowed to be part of the village council and hence their problems are rarely addressed or even taken up.”

Kharshiing emphasised, “So if women too are part of village council decisions, our society will definitely evolve into a much better and vibrant democracy.”

Former deputy CM and currently a councillor of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, Bindo Lanong, lauded the Court’s observation and said that in the election for a village headman, there should not be any bar on the participation of females over 18-years of age.

He, however, felt that it should be “confined to the village level and not at the higher level of traditional chiefs” since every institution differs from one another.

The village councils refrained from commenting on the matter since the writ petition is awaiting a final outcome in the High Court, but the women folk of this matrilineal state, who control the lineage of the clan as well as property rights, were elated and said such a decision would empower and enable them to root out corruption as well as political interference into day to day affairs at the village level.

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