In recent years, a few groups have formed to challenge the matrilineal system, inspired by the patriarchal culture of mainland India and the West. They have begun campaigning for equal rights, and even for a complete reversal of the system from women to men.
Mr Keith Pariat, the leader of the Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai Movement' (SRT) complains openly about the situation…
“Khasi men feel they are only breeding bulls, and their responsibilities end with procreation. I, as a father, have no say over my own children."
“At the end of the day, if the woman decides to divorce, the father leaves the house empty handed, no land, no property, therefore they end up drinking, deserting their wives and dying young.”
Extract from an SRT flyer in Shillong.
“Our demands are quite simple,” Mr Pariat dictates:
- To give full authority to the father;
- To change to a patrilineal system (so children will have the father’s name);
- For inheritance to be equally distributed among sons and daughters, with the eldest son responsible for looking after the parents instead of the youngest daughter.”
Izy and Vicky - property kept by women.
“Those organisations fighting for a change, they have already lost, the woman has won,” Izy says almost shouting. “They have even lost their prestige, because lots of men believe they can’t do the work that the women do.”
Izy and Vicky are sisters and live together in the aptly named suburb of Shillong - Happy Valley.
“We are happy like this, Izi and me. We have a son; we look after him together, so what? We are happy without men,” says Vicky, and Izy echoes her in agreement.
An educated Khasi girl trapped in the village by tradition.
“When I was 18, I left for the neighbouring state of Mizoram. I stayed there two years teaching at a primary school. I was so happy,” says Olivia, a beautiful girl with large melancholic eyes.
"But, I had to move back to help my mother run her tea house, because I am the youngest daughter."
Sadly for Olivia, her dream of returning to Misoram is becoming more and more distant. As tradition dictates, the youngest daughter is expected to look after the family house and take care of her aging parents.
This responsibility, however, is much Olivia's choice as it is her mother’s; it demonstrates once again the control the matrilineal system has over the people, even the educated.
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