Nagaland has 13.17 lakh registered voters, of which 6.60 lakh are female voters, slightly outnumbering their male counterparts. With Nagaland set to go to the polls on 19 April for the 18th Lok Sabha, the political climate in the state has intensified. However, amidst the usual hustle and bustle of electioneering, the reaction of women voters in Nagaland has remained subdued. Many have remained quiet, with a seeming lack of political activity permeating the atmosphere.

Reflecting on this sentiment, Abeni remarked, “The community I reside in is such that women don’t seem to care. If it were a state election, perhaps there would be more enthusiasm. However, I find that people are not taking this Lok Sabha election seriously.”

She added, “Even I am not interested in it. In the past, I voted not out of genuine interest but rather because I observed how the majority votes. If you vote differently, you get singled out, and no one wants that,” she reasoned. “I feel like our freedom to vote of our choice is limited. Also, customary law binds us somehow because women are never involved in decision-making. Women are not even included in political campaigns. I believe that is why we don’t generate interest in politics,” concluded Abeni.

Imnatula, a working journalist, also echoed similar sentiments. “Our opinions still hold minimal weight in electioneering. We have very little freedom to exercise our vote of choice.”

According to Imnatula, while the curbing of the right to vote in urban areas is less common, the snatching of voting rights is often observed in rural areas.

“I personally feel that the female voters in rural areas, or those who are less educated, are not adequately sensitized about the value of their votes. Consequently, we often witness the other gender taking advantage of their ignorance,” shared Atu.

Dr Limasenla, an assistant professor, echoed similar sentiments. She highlighted the patriarchal nature of Naga society, where men predominantly wield decision-making power. “In most households, it is the father who determines the voting choices, and therefore, women and children vote based on what the father says,” she observed, noting a prevalent trend of women blindly adhering to men’s decisions.

She attributed this phenomenon to entrenched traditions and customs, where women, consciously or unconsciously, internalize the notion that “Women are not meant for politics”.

Reflecting on the involvement of women in politics, she observed thus: “If we examine the political participation of women in our society, we find they are often active only during elections. Furthermore, female candidates tend to exhibit assertiveness or confrontational traits, rather than possessing a deep understanding of politics.”

Expressing concern over the stereotyping of women party workers, she lamented the “sad reality” and urged for a change.

Atu, a mother and wife, said she has not decided whether she’ll vote or not. This, she said, is mainly because she believes that the Lok Sabha election is not as significant as the General State Assembly election.

In contrast, Lanunechetla, a teacher by profession, said she finds the present election more important. According to her, many voters are not considering the world’s situation or the future but are solely committed to their own party.

“I believe that youths should play a pivotal role in society. Fortunately, we are witnessing a gradual shift in mindset. Around 40-50% of the population is beginning to grasp the responsibilities of a democratic citizen,” she remarked optimistically. Despite acknowledging that immediate change might not be visible, she highlighted a growing awareness among citizens.

Aien Amri, a counselor and social media influencer, advocated for responsible voting, seeing it as her “duty” to vote for the government of her choice.

“We all have been given the opportunity to choose the right representative. When we are given this opportunity, let’s be responsible and vote wisely. If we don’t do it this time, tomorrow might never come again,” she said.

Mokokchung Times

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