In a country, where the news of brutal abuse of women makes to the headlines of the newspaper every day, it is surprising to see an Indian state where being a woman is not a matter of shame, fear or disgust!
The Sanskrit word “Meghalaya” means “abode of clouds”. And Meghalaya is actually nothing less than a heaven for girls. In this state, the native Khasi people, who make up the largest ethnic group in the state, carry on the matrilineal tradition –
Titles, Family Surname, Wealth and Kids are all passed from mother to the daughter and once married, men live in their mother-in-law’s home.
Inheritance Passed From Mother To Daughter
In Khasi families, the youngest daughter gets the largest share of the inheritance. She is responsible for taking care of the parents, unmarried siblings and the maintenance of the property.
The youngest daughter is called the “Khatduh”, whose home is open to the whole family.
But, Why Khasi Adopted This Tradition
Some sources claim that the tradition came to the origin when Khasi men went to battle and left their households to their wives, thus raising the status of women in the community.
However, other sources claim that the system emerged due to difficulties in determining who had fathered children, as Khasi women used to have several partners.
It’s A Girl! – The Sweetest Words
While there is a high preference for sons across India, the birth of a daughter is equally or more joyfully celebrated than that of a son.
What’s In The Name?
Khasi children inherit their mother’s clan name, rather than their father’s. This protects both mothers and children from social rejection, even if women remarry or have children out of wedlock.
Who Drives The Business?
In Meghalaya, women run local markets and manage most economic enterprises. The Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, which was passed in 1997, protects this matrilineal structure.
Now if that doesn’t surprise you what would?
But, What About Political System?
Even though women in Khasi society hold most of the social and economic influence, political power still outside their sphere of influence.
The heads of Khasi village councils are always men. The 60-member state legislative assembly has only four female lawmakers.
What About Gender Equality?
As per some sources, the matrilineal system should not be confused with matriarchy. Khasi women have never held power.
The former rulers of the tribe left their throne to the son of their youngest sister. All the key government ministers are men and very few women sit even on village councils.
But in recent years some men felt the need to break down the matrilineal system. They have joined the Syngkhong Rympei Thymai (SRT), essentially a “men’s liberation group”.
We want to be part of society where not only “being a woman” is a matter of pride but also both the genders are treated equally and fair.