NE conflict led to rise in female-headed households

New Delhi, Jan 28 | Updated: Jan 29 2005, 06:12am hrs
A direct impact of the ongoing strife in the northeast region has been a rise in the number of women-headed households, according to a report on the situation in the area by the National Commission for Women (NCW).

It was found that the conflict in northeast region has resulted in an increase in female-headed households, according to the report violence against women in northeast India: an enquiry.

The situation has arisen because the husbands, fathers and brothers had either fled, been killed or joined the ranks of the underground outfits, the report said.

Unemployment being the bane of the region, many women in Manipur and Assam have been forced to depend on their neighbours for work or relatives for help to access the formal economic sector.

The North East Network (NEN), which prepared the report, found that women have had to resort to selling liquor, drugs or even prostitution to make enough money to run their households.

Historically, this region has been witness to strong womens movements and gave rise to local groups that spoke for women in strife-torn areas, the report said.

It, however, noted that in Manipur, womens groups like Meira Pabis, were excluded from decision-making bodies.

On the violence suffered by women in conflict-ridden northeast, the report noted that it was different from the violence in normal situation as in the region, even the state which was supposed to guard their lives and rights posed a threat to them.

Women, therefore, had to cope without the help from either state or the society, it said.

The armed conflict in the northeast had also led to largescale displacement of people, with women being the worst affected. Citing the Norwegian refugee council report for Manipur for 2000-01, the NCW-commissioned study said violence between Kukis and Paites and friction between Nagas and Meitis had Left 50,000 people homeless.

Apart from the direct impact of the conflict in terms of violence, loss of property, trauma and patriarchal control on women seem to have increased, the report said.

The number of people, especially women who face mental trauma as a result of violence is high, the report quoted Dr R K Lenin, assistant professor, psychiatry department, regional institute of medical science Imphal as saying.

Lenin revealed that nearly 10% of the total population suffered from mental illness, out of which 1% were very severe.

Women went for treatment only in extreme cases, when pathological problems manifested themselves in form of severe headaches, depression or general ill health, he added.