Nagaland: Are women really safe in the state?
Kohima, March 22: The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) had declared Nagaland the 'safest' state for women with only 67 incidences of crime against women. In fact, it was recorded to be the only state in the country to have recorded in single digit the crime rate against women.
While the data offers an opportunity for one to indulge in complacence, the reality projects an entirely different picture: It is found that women in Nagaland, both 'educated and uneducated', are victims of various kinds of violence.
Vulnerable Naga women bear the brunt of violence at home and in public places. Unfortunately, cases are not reported for fear of social stigma and the belief that a woman should be submissive. Hence, they bear atrocities as long as they can for the sake of name and family.
Lanuienla Imchen, the manager of Women Helpline-181, Nagaland, said that since the helpline was launched in June 2016, it has received about 36,672 calls. Women Helpline 181 is a project of the Nagaland State Social Welfare Board (NSSWB) and funded by the Ministry of Women and Child Development Fund.
Imchen informed that the highest number of cases it has received relate to domestic violence. Other cases include cyber crimes; stalking, eve teasing, obscene phone calls; child marriage, rape within marriage etc.
Violence against women, she said, is not a new thing in the society. 'It is always there. It has been passed on from generation to generation.' Even if a man violates her modesty, a woman will never say it for fear of stigma, said Imchen, because of the stereotype mentality of 'dos and don'ts' specified for women in the society.
Also, she regretted that victims really hesitate when it comes to registering complaints for fear of stigma and, 'fear of relapse,' concerns involving husbands and in-laws. 'Though we really want to help, the women are reluctant to register their cases in most cases. They don't (refused) want to come out of that shell.'
Narrating some incidences, Imchen said most in-laws refused to accept their daughter-in-law once they go to the police 'because we think these are household matters that need to be sorted out within the family.'
'Traditionally we are so composed of our culture and social stigmas. It's ok to be rooted to the tree but we have to come out of that and change our mindset,' Lanuienla Imchen said.
Disagreeing with the NCRB record, she asserted that 'we cannot afford to relax and sit back thinking that Nagaland is the safest place.'
State Coordinator for State Women Resource Centre, Gracy Aye agrees that the NCRB projection of Nagaland as the safest might be true if one goes by the data. However, she said people need to realise the hard fact that there are many women who don't report as 'they don't want their husband or their in-laws or for that matter the society to know because of the stigma attached to it'.
She regretted that people always tend to blame the victim first, without realising that the victim might be traumatised further.
Also, Aye criticised the stereotype that men have the right and can be abusive while women ought to be god-fearing, be submissive and to demonstrate patience to bear the atrocities against her. Women come out only when they can no longer tolerate the abuse or when they are at the extreme breaking point and extremely traumatised, Aye reminded.
'Why the violence against women? Why do men feel that they have the right to beat or harass women? It's all because of the patriarchy thing, though many claim that Nagaland is not a patriarchal society, but our society is patrilineal,' commented Aye.
Women are perceived as the weaker sex, dependent and expected to be submissive. Therefore, the smallest sign of resistance invites violence.
Nagaland State Commission for Women, Dr Temsula Ao once said that violence against women was escalating, and had called for introspection at the obstacles 'put by society.'
While women should be aware and stand up for their rights, there is an urgent need for change in attitude, and sensitisation at home and public that women are not punching bags.