Women’s organizations in the state of Meghalaya are calling for boycott of Women’s Day as a mark of protest against the insensitive and slanderous comments of Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Lanong.
On February 18, 2010 the National Commission for Women held a conference on Women’s Empowerment at Shillong, which was attended by several women activists and interested individuals. The Deputy Chief Minister, in his speech, portrayed women of Meghalaya as highly empowered, although he conceded there were stray cases of violence against them.
An activist asked if women were so empowered in the state why were statistics of vulnerability, discrimination, violence and abuse against women so high? If women were so empowered why was it that Meghalaya never had a woman chief minister?
Irked by these comments, the minister’ put aside his prepared speech. Heated arguments followed.
A crisp article by Patricia Mukhim, a noted political commentator and activist, came out the following day in the Shillong Times. It depicted ground realities of women’s position in Meghalaya’s matrilineal society. She pointed out the indifference of politicians and the power
structure in dealing with various women’s issues.
The next day Bindo Lanong called a press conference. He attacked the newspaper
article and likened the writer to a poisonous seinpuh (snake) which destroys everything around it with its venom.
In Meghalaya, this is an extremely derogatory term. He used the same term also in respect of activists who opposed his views. His comments imply that the opinions of outspoken and articulate women of Meghalaya are detrimental to the society.
There followed was a series of internal and formal meetings amongst women’s groups. It was decided that Women’s Day should not be celebrated as usual. Instead it should be marked as a day of protest and disapproval against the Minister’s apparent insensitivity towards women, which, we fear, has and will further impinge on the implementation of pro-women schemes and state policies. To us, good governance is the critical issue and indifferent leaders cannot bring positive changes for women in this state, even with pro-women policies. Thus, Women's Day, which we have always celebrated with hope will be used, this time, as a tool to express our solidarity. We believe collective strength of women at this hour should be articulated to call for state accountability over women's issues in Meghalaya. A public apology by Lanong over his vehement remarks against women would be appreciated.
We feel we should share this with you and hope that women’s organizations, wherever they are, will add a statement about our concern when they organize meetings/gatherings on March 8 in different parts of the country. WIll be great if this mail can go to other parts of India to your friends and women's groups.
Agnes Kharshiing, President, Civil Society Women’s Organization, Meghalaya
Aruna Biswa, President, Meghalaya United Women’s Welfare Organization, Meghalaya
Maryanne Pohshna, Jaintia Yuva Federation, Women’s Wing, Meghalaya
Monisha Behal, North East Network, Meghalaya.
(Received through Human Rights Movements network)