Among the 174 candidates in Mizoram that have filed their nominations for the November 7 Assembly elections, 16 are women. But as they head to face the electoral battle, they have several odds stacked against them: the 40-member state Assembly currently does not have a single woman legislator and has seen only four women MLAs since its formation.
Currently, of the women candidates in the fray, three are from the BJP and two each from the Mizo National Front (MNF), Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), and the Congress. The rest are Independents.
Of these women candidates, only the Congress nominee, Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu, has been an MLA previously. She has been fielded by the grand old party from the Aizawl-II seat in this election.
Chawngthu won the Hrangturzo seat in the 2014 bypoll and became the state’s first woman MLA since the 1987 state elections. She was subsequently inducted into the then Congress ministry and allotted the sericulture, fisheries and cooperation portfolios.
However, Chawngthu lost the 2018 elections — she was then the only woman candidate fielded by the Congress — even as the state returned to an Assembly without any women representatives. The MNF, which formed the government, had not fielded a single woman candidate in 2018. Of the 16 women who had contested in 2018, all but two had to forfeit their deposits.
In the 2013 polls, only eight women were in the fray. The state, however, has a higher number of female electors, who register larger voting percentage than male voters.
Currently, there are 4,38,925 female electors and 4,12,969 male electors in Mizoram. In 2013, 82.12% of women had voted against 79.5% of men; In 2018, 81.09% women voted, while there were 78.92% male voters.
R Biaktluangi, the BJP’s candidate from Lunglei West, says that she is the first woman candidate to have ever been fielded in this constituency. “I feel that I am in a strong position. This is the first time for the people here to have a woman candidate but they are being very kind,” says Biaktluangi, 65, who has worked for 42 years in a state government department.
Baryl Vanneihsangi, 32, currently a corporator in the Aizawl Mizoram Council, has been fielded by the ZPM from the Aizawl South-III seat. She says it is important for her to change the perceptions about women MLAs through her campaign.
“We are fighting among the men, but I take it as a challenge and not a disadvantage. We are born and brought up in a patriarchal society and there has been social stigma in this matter. People think they will be ruled by a woman MLA. But we are not going to be giving orders. We will work for them and raise the voices of the unheard. If elected, I will represent the entire society,” Vanneihsangi said.
One of the Congress’s two women candidates, Meriam Hrangchal, who is contesting from Lunglei South, is already facing heat from the the Mizo Zirlai Pawl, the apex students’ body of the state, which is opposing her candidature because of her marriage to a non-Mizo.
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