TODAY -

Role of Women in Manipur
- Part 2 -

Jayalaxmi Brahmacharimayum *



Role of Women in Family

Women irrespective of their professions have their priorities in the domestic chores of the family. Married women in fact are compulsory house makers, taking care of the children, handling house hold chores like washing clothes, cooking food, fetching water and taking care of the entire family members. And the role is the same whether she is a working woman or a house wife.

And the responsibility for housekeeping is more for the tribal women. She has to wake up early in the morning, cleaning the house, preparing food, washing clothes and sending her children to schools and in the afternoon till sunset she stays in the field collecting firewood, planting vegetables, fruits to sell in the local market and when she comes back in the evening she is expected to handle very minute details of the household chores in the family. As they get older, they suffer from various health problems.

However many a times women have to bear the tantrums or thrashing from her husband or in-laws if anything goes wrong in her management. Often a wife is blamed if her husband is a drunkard or a drug addict for no fault of hers. Women do not have their own identity but are often identified by their husband or son.

Games and Sports

Even though Manipur has a minuscule population it has been contributing a lot in the field of games and sports. Indigenous games like mukna kangjei, polo, kang, likon, yubilakpi is still enjoyed by our locals. To name a few Kunjarani, Sanamacha, M.C Mary Kom, Tingongleima, Anita Devi and many sports women have brought laurels for the state.

So looking at the above paragraphs we can truly say that in fact women in Manipur are indeed taking commendable role in very sphere of our day to day life.

However like women in any other part of the world they suffer from many forms of violence mainly due to conflict situation, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and human trafficking.

Women & Conflict

The ongoing conflict situation is giving a big burden into the lives of our women. Many of the women are widowed at young age and most of them belong to the poor family. Rape, molestation, sexual abuse is very high due to the prolonged conflict situation in the state.

Many a times instances of rape by the security forces has created hue and cry amongst these women. The brutal rape cases of Ahongjaobi and Thangjam Manorama Devi is still afresh in our minds. Even women have fallen prey to indiscriminate firings in encounter, bomb attacks etc.

Due to rampant killing of many people in the state most women are widowed at very young age. Most of these widows are from poor family and not well equipped with education. Quite a large number of women start selling vegetables, clothes, fruits in the market, running pan-shops tea- stalls etc.

Nowadays there are many reports in the newspaper where women are used for carrying small arms, drugs and narcotic substances. Women who entirely depend on daily earnings are severely affected due to frequent bandhs, curfews and general -strikes.

Women & HIV/AIDS

Manipur is a state which has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS a state which has one of the highest HIV infected population. The root cause of the increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the state is due to sharing of needles and syringes or other injecting equipment among the IDUs (Injecting Drug Users).

In the late 1970s a drug addiction trend started in the state and majority of the drug users were between the age group of 15-35 years of age. And in earlier times due to lack of awareness and fear of stigma and discrimination there were many hidden population carrying the HIV virus.

So when an IDU who is positive gets into the family life they often spread the virus to their spouses. The women who are ignorant about their husbands' status are often blamed for his positive status.

Now the spread is mainly through sexual transmission since many young women are affected. Gradually these women transfer the virus to general population.

Some of the major problems faced by a HIV+ woman.

The society looks down upon her since her husband is prone to certain types of OI (Opportunistic Infection) and very often she is compelled to earn a living and at the same time need to take proper care of her husband and the children, maintenance of the family etc.

Secondly if she herself is HIV+ then our society calls her immoral woman as the main mode of HIV transmission is through sexual contact.

When a positive woman is sick there will be no one to take care of her, and she will be stigmatized by the society. This robs her zeal to live life and weakens her self-esteem.

Thirdly she suffers as the mother of HIV+ children. Seeing her children falling sick very often, she is insecure about her children's future.

The problem is more when she becomes a widow

Once the husband is dead she will be ousted by the in-laws and is not welcomed even at her maternal home. In order to find a roof over her head, and two square meals a day, she starts selling things like vegetables, running small tea-stall etc.

However such a mere income is hard to meet both ends meet for her family so she will look for easier ways to eke out a living. Some of them start selling liquor, or get into flesh trade as the last resort to seek a livelihood.

Most often mother will try to conceal her positive status from their children, and it becomes a problem when taking ART (Anti-Retro Viral Therapy) on time and accessing to other mode of treatment.

Women & Domestic Violence

The case of domestic violence is not so new in Manipur. These women face domestic violence from her in-laws, husbands, brother etc. However very few women reported the case as they feel that these are all part of the family affairs, and had to be confined within the four corners of the wall.

As per the latest data produced by the National Family Health Survey (III), 37% of women in the age-group of 15-49 have experienced domestic violence and 17% of women have experienced violence in some point in their lives. And above all Manipur has the highest figure among all the states in India, where 85% of men think that wife beating is justifiable under some circumstances.

It may be said that a girl since the time of her birth has to undergo many forms of violence. The girl child is always poorly feed. It has been seen that the best part of the food is offered to male members of a family. She is made to learn many household chores so that she may become a good wife when she is married taking proper care of her husband and in-laws.

She is denied the right to property and due to her poor educational status most often she is ignorant of her rights. Her only duty is to obey her elders, and remain a silent observer. She is often denied right to mobility, property, right to freedom of speech and expression etc.

The problem again become worsened if the woman is single, divorced or separated from her husband or is a widow. In Manipur there are cases of harassment by husbands and in-laws for dowry. Effective implementation of Domestic Violence Act 2005 is still very poor.

Conclusion

Women in Manipur are suffering a lot due to the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. Lack of employment opportunities, poverty, and basic amenities is adding more problems. Most of the women are not educated so there is imbalance in the development.

Even well- educated women hardly come forward to voice for their right due to many social obligations. Very often she suffers from health problems due to lack of proper nutrition and over burden of household activities.

Neither in the family or society, women hardly have any say in the major decision making process. Most of the women in Manipur are ignorant about their rights. Education of a girl child is not given due importance. There are many restriction imposed by our society to women.

Despite the active participation of women in election campaigns, practising their right to franchise, we have no many active women politician in the state. By seeing at the myriad roles of women in Manipur we can truly say that women in Manipur are still not empowered.

Truly Gandhiji has said "Women are the embodiment of sacrifice and suffering" and this can be rightly said about Manipuri women.



Concluded ........

References:

  • General Knowledge of Manipur, Compiled by Indra Kumar Telem
  • Constraints In Development Of Manipur Regency Publication, New Delhi
  • The Role of Women In Manipur Politics by Pro Ksh Bimola Devi, Year of Publication 2001
  • Women in Contemporary Situation by L. Umarani Chanu & M. Jamuna Devi Year of Publication 2001)
  • History of Modern Manipur (1826-1949) by Lal Dena Year of Publication 1991, Orbit Publishers-Distributors New Delhi -110055
  • Sovenior (Women Empowerment and Development with Special Reference to Manipur) sponsored by ICSSR (North Eastern Regional Centre, Shillong & Directorate of University & Higher Education, Government of Manipur
  • Role of Women in Ushering Peace in Manipur by Prof Ksh Bimola Devi
  • Women & Education by B.M Sharma (2003) Common Wealth Publishers New Delhi
  • Feminism In a Traditional Society: (Women of Manipur Valley) by Manjushri Chaki Sircar
  • Manipur Today Year of Publication 15th August 1990
  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3, 2007) report Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India
  • www.e-pao.net
  • www.kanglaonline.com
  • www.manipuronline.com
The views expressed above are based on the above references and after extensive discussions with eminent scholars and social activists.


Concluded ........


* Jayalaxmi Brahmacharimayum contributes to e-pao.net for the first time. The writer can be contacted at jaya(dot)sana(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on May 30th, 2009.



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