Like elsewhere in the world the state also observes International Women’s Day. This is an observation where we discuss and review the status of women of women in society in different aspects. One talks about women empowerment in society, but it seems we are confused with the manner in which the empowerment process should be conducted. A general practice has been reservation for women in public bodies and other sectors with an aim for uplift of women in society. This practice is open to debate, as questions linger on whether it had really been able to achieve the level of empowerment in mind or has a dependency syndrome on reservation developed among women as we have seen in other underprivileged sections of the society. Anyway, this is a food for thought for those experts claiming reservation as the answer and those demanding reservation quotas for women. The time has come for self introspection on the ‘real’ status of women in our society. Discourses on Manipuri women primarily deal with their political action and their socio-economic role. But, whenever the status of women and gender discrimination issues are brought up, most scholars and activists choose to look the other way. No doubt, the participation of Manipuri women in political action is legendary. During the British colonial period, the womenfolk rose against the colonial policies not only once but twice (1904 and 1939). In the past, it was the colonial policies of the British which became the focal point of Women's War. Today, they are at the forefront of the movement for the protection of human rights in the midst of the armed conflict. Beside the violence inflicted by the armed forces, the psychological trauma caused by the diverse forms of repression, the sense of insecurity and the absence of stability in their lives, they also shoulder the additional burden of sexual abuse and discrimination. It was in such a situation that the Meira Paibi was born. They have taken unto themselves the responsibility of protecting innocent people from the excesses of military action. In the socio-economic sector, Manipuri women play a very important role. They are the managers of the local market network and they actively participate in all kinds of productive activities. But in the contemporary development, we are also witnessing the increasing marginalization of these women. Much have been written on the political and socio-economic role of women. But an empirical study on the real situation of Manipuri women vis-a-vis the universally recognised human rights, is yet to be done. Behind the facade of political and socio-economic role, the lives of many Manipuri women are still governed by prejudices and stereotypes of a patriarchal society. The prejudices and stereotypes were so deep-rooted in the socio-cultural structure of Manipuri society that it became the reason for continued ignorance of the inherent violence or discrimination. The tragedy is the general lack of interest even among the enlightened women to admit the discrimination or to challenge the status quo. No doubt, in collective action Manipuri women are to be feared as we have seen in several instances. Even the armed forces are wary of Manipuri women while conducting operations. But, in the domestic domain they have no voice in policy or decision making process. At the core lies, the deep rooted patriarchy and male dominated society. If ever we have to conceive a complete overhaul of the system we have to start from the basics.
Leader Writer: Irengbam Arun