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Deconstructing notions of power: Are Khasis ready for a patrilineal change?

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Rukma Singh

Upon a visit to a hospital ward in the Khasi region of North Eastern India, one is most likely to hear cheerful sounds of joy and applause over a girl’s birth, as opposed to disinterest and grief over a boy’s birth.

The Khasi region, holds more in store than what meets the eye. It houses some ancient traditions, characterized by high regard for women, especially in decision making processes. This stands out as a significant anomaly in a male dominated society. So much so, that the region is on the verge of becoming a prospective battleground, with the male section attempting to put an end to the existing matrilineality, once and for all.

Fighting for the ‘right’

Women are believed to stand right at the centre of the Khasi community. The youngest daughter inherits, children take their mother’s surname, and once married, men live in their mother-in-law’s home.

One of the major complaints made by the Khasi community is that only mothers or mother-in-laws look after the children. They  believe that men are not even entitled to take part in family gatherings. That way, the husband is up against a whole clan of people: his wife, his mother-in-law and his children.

Analysing the reasons

When it comes to mapping the reasons behind the existing matrilineality in the region, there is an evident clash of opinions.

On one hand, Valentina Pakyntein, an anthropologist at Shillong University says the matrilineal system goes back to a time when Khasis had several partners and it was hard to determine the paternity of children.

On the other hand, members of the Synkhong Rympei Thymmai (SRT) deny this. SRT was a platform formed in 1990 to deal with issues faced by the male community and voice their discomforts. In response to Pakyntein’s claim, they said that their ancestors were away from home for too long fighting wars to be able to look after their families.

What appalls the Khasi men further is the fact that in the past, there have been further efforts towards the expansion of rights of Khasi women. Men’s rights have rarely come under scrutiny and debate.

Women’s response

Women disregard the whole debate and movement against their dominance. They don’t agree with the stand that society is biased towards men. Rather, they regard the prevailing system as a logical one.

They justify their position by claiming that parents can put faith in them and expect them to take their responsibility. This parental dependence is a strong evidence of the stark contrast between the Khasi community and the major part of the rest of the country. Because of this dependence, Khasi women also do not face parental pressure in terms of marriage, no matter what their age is.

Women often question, “Why bother with a husband when I’m able enough to sustain a large family on my own?”

Blurring the lines

These existing conditions tend to create a chaotic picture. More often than not, people tend to overlook the intricacies of the situation,and without delving deeper into the situation, blow the existing details out of proportion.

What is essential to understand is that there is matrilineality, and not matriarchy and the lines between the two shouldn’t be blurred. Khasi women have never held positions of power. All the chief government ministers are men and few women even sit on village councils.  A survey about the “Social transition and status of women among the khasi tribe of Meghalaya” points out some unseen realities of the condition of women.

Even though Khasi women have rights over their children, this does not often translate into authority, which in most cases is shared between the mother’s brother/brother  on the one side and by the father/husband on the other side, an arrangement obviously made to reconcile male authority.

The position of women in the Khasi society becomes clear when we examine the role of the youngest daughter, who is the traditional heir to the ancestral property of the household.

As the heir to the family property, the youngest daughter is not only expected to be closely guided by the counsel of the mother’s brother, who controls the property but is also obliged to look after her aged parents and other vulnerable members of the family.She needs to provide testimony to her moral conduct, the non-adherence to which will result in the taking away of her rights.

Hence, the role of maternal uncles is crucial in determining the ‘real’ sense of women’s position in the society.

The resilient fight of the SRT

Khasi men often talk about how their position in the society has been reduced to breeding bulls. Their activities are merely restricted to recreation, and they are far away from being given real responsibilities.

The male community has continuously been complaining about the lack of authority given to them.They voice their concerns through SRT and its activities.

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                                                            Extract from an SRT flyer in Shillong

The SRT sends across its messages regularly through flyers and posters. They prefer to keep their identity concealed due to the fear of being ostracized by the community. With a strength of over 1000 members, SRT also has some female members, mostly from West Bengal, who fear that their sons might fall for Khasi women and give in to their control.

The SRT group believes in solving the ills of the Khasi community by supporting the transition from matriliny to patriliny. For catering to the Christian community, the SRT spokespersons use the Bible as their selling point.

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Women’s major role in Shahid Kapoor’s life

Know why Shahid Kpoor says that women have been the strongest and important part of his life

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Women have played a major role in Shahid Kapoor's life
Women have played a major role in Shahid Kapoor's life. IANS
  • Shahid Kapoor talks about how women have played a major role in his life
  • Shahid Kapoor says how the condition of women has evolved in the Bollywood industry

New Delhi, Dec 9: Actor Shahid Kapoor says the strongest people in his life have been women, especially his mother Neelima Azeem who has been a single parent. He also calls his wife Mira and daughter Misha his “whole world” and says he couldn’t have been happier in his life than now.

Shahid spoke to IANS on phone from Mumbai on the sidelines of Reebok FitToFight Awards 2.0, where the brand felicitated women nominees from across the country for their spirit and courage.

“I don’t think there is anything which resonated with me so naturally as this campaign did. The strongest people in my life have been women, starting with my mother. She was a single parent and she was the most powerful and the strongest, and a person I would depend on the most,” said Shahid, who endorses Reebok with Kangana Ranaut.

“Today, Mira and Misha are my whole world and I can’t think of any reason why this initiative would not connect with me. It’s the most natural connect,” said the actor, who also believes women are fitter than men.

“Women know how to deal with situations better than most men do. They are very independent and self-assured,” he said.

So is he going to inculcate these traits in Misha too?

“I want her to discover herself, be respectful towards family and appreciate everything that she has. I want her to spread love and happiness,” he said of his little one, who was born in August 2016.

Coming from an industry where heroines often complain about not getting the equal screen space compared to their male counterparts, Shahid feels the journey of female stars has changed over the years.

“It’s important to recognise roles for their power, for their impact. It doesn’t matter whether it is male or female. I think stories that deserve being told, the characters that deserve being showcased, must be showcased. There is nothing like male or female in art. It’s just about discussing life, connecting with people and saying something substantial.

“I think it’s amazing to see that so much has been created in films which are female-centric and they are loved by audiences. It also goes to show that we have a lot of women in the audience, in case anybody had forgotten,” he said.

And what does he think about pay equality?

“I think it is changing for the positive. I think people are recognising (the issue) and it is all co-related. Today, women-oriented films have started doing extremely well and they have developed a market for themselves. Therefore, the change is naturally happening.

“Like I said before, it’s not about male or female. If you deserve to be paid a certain amount because that is how viable you are, you must be paid that,” Shahid told IANS.

His next film “Padmavati”, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is under the scanner for alleged distortion of historical facts about the fabled Rajput queen. The film was scheduled to release on December 1, but was deferred and uncertainty over its release still looms large.

Tired of commenting on the row, he said: “I have spoken enough and I don’t feel the need to say anything more.”

He also said trolls and backlash are problems emerging from social media.

“It’s very easy to pass a comment when you don’t have to be accountable for it because nobody even knows who you are.”

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These 8 successful Muslim women are showcasing Freedom their way!

Though there are forsure many but here we present to you the some handful of success stories of Muslim women in modern world. Totally independant and unbounded, they have carved a niche for themselves in many fields through their creativity, talent and self - belief

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Muslim women
Bashing unfreedom-The new age Muslim woman.Pixeby

Not everyone is following rigid fundamentalism these days. In 2017, people and specially some inspiring Muslim women are embracing freedom and individuality through their inspirational work in global markets. Be it fashion, lifestyle,sports or politics- they are setting standards in every domain, breaking stereotypes all the way long!

Have a look at the success stories of these leading Muslim ladies and what they believe in.

SAUFEEYA GOODSON

Dubai based fashion entrepreneur Saufeeya is a global figure appearing in many fashion magazines. Being the co-owner of Modest Route, she has re- branded Modest fashion in a very stylised manner grabbing the attention of 2million followers on instagram page. She is frequently mentioned in Vogue or Teen Vogue under the trademark of her bold, daring and contemporary outfits made for modern age Muslim woman. This trendsetter with her avant garde style has been revolutionizing Islamic modest clothing in world.

CAROLYN WALKER-DIALLO

Carolyn hit the headlines when she was sworn in with the Quran back in 2015, becoming the first ever New York City Civil court judge to do so. She bravely stood up to the backlash that resulted later but her strong act inspired many Muslim women around the world. It somehow relieved them from communal stigmatization that they go through.

LINDA SARSOUR

Linda Sarsour- civil right's activist
Linda Sarsour- civil right’s activist.wikimedia.commons

 

Linda, a Palestinian- American civil rights activist, is popularly known for her key role in helping to organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington.It was a public demonstartion led by women coming together from all walks of life. With her resolute, Linda instilled in a belief in thousands of women to fight for their vanity,esteem and rights.

BEHNAZ SHAFIEI

it is hard to imagine a female road racer/motocross rider and being a Muslim woman makes it a rare case, but Behnaz is exactly that. Born in Iran- a country where women are not allowed for exercising such liberties and are often ridiculed for their driving skills, Behnaz enjoys the fact that many men cannot do the stunts she performs with ease and confidence on her motorbike. She is the only Iranian female to be involved in road racing professionally challenging the preconceived notions of the society in regard to women.

RUMA

Known for her fashion blogs, Ruma recently got mentioned on the Twitter page of H&M where she was applauded for her distinctive panache that voice traditional modesty. According to her the haute hijab empowers feminine sensibility.Being a dreamer as well as achiever, she looks forward to inspire her followers with stories and lessons learned from her life by using social media to promote the art of fashion.

HALIMA ADEN

Halima is a model known for being the first Somali-American Muslim woman to take part in a beauty pageant donning a hijab.With all grace and modesty she hit news by reaching the semifinals of Minnesota USA pageant. She even graced the fashion runway for Kanye West at his show Yeezy season 5. Keeping at bay all Muslim stereotypes, this flamboyant model appeared on the front cover of Allure, wearing a Nike hijab with a caption saying, “This is American Beauty.” 

SHAHD BATAL

As a YouTuber and blogger, Shahd’s focus is mainly on providing viewers with her own original tips on how to attain healthy skin or apply makeup. Sudanese by birth but now living in Minneapolis, her tutorial videos are popularly hitting the internet since 2014. They were recently rehashed and showcased via her new sleek channel. From wearing a classic head-wrap and making pen perfect eyebrows, to her very personal stories with regard to the Hijab, she has been earnestly devoting herself to portray Hijab as a motif of modern age accessory.

 

SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY     

Muslim Women
SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY- Pakistani filmaker.wikimedia.commons

 Sharmeen has been mentioned by esteemed Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. A Muslim woman filmmaker, journalist and activist born in Pakistan, most of her films highlight the inequalities that women face. She has received two Academy awards, six Emmy and Lux Style award for her bold vision. Even the Pakistani government has honored her with the second highest civilian honor of the country, the Hilal-i-Imtiaz for her dauntless contribution to films.

These handful examples of empowering, influential and compelling Muslim women express a great deal- to come out of the shackles of a society that restricts you and your creative energies.Not just to the Muslim women of today, they are inspirational for all women who seek for self – actualization.

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Checkout Ten Must-Read Books For Women

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Must reads for a woman.
Must reads for a woman. Pixabay

Nothing in this world can give you the feeling which books do. Some stories, some word just touch your heart and end up giving you the greatest lessons of life. Books can be inspiring at times, and help you make the toughest decisions of life. Below are ten must-read books for women:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns

The book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, who has also authored ‘Kite Runner’ revolves around the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila. The beautiful friendship of these two and the things they go through is mesmerizing. The book’s subtlety puts it under the category of must-read books for women.

2. Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium series has three books- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl who Played with Fire”. The lead character of the series, Lisabeth Salander, is a confident and bold woman who never follows the old norms of the society and leads her life differently. Her rebellious nature can inspire the girls out there to stand for themselves.

3.  Pride And Prejudice

Must-Reads for women
Pride and Prejudice. Wikimedia.

The classic by Jane Austen teaches you to distinguish between the essential and the superficial. It makes you come across a way of looking at women, which is not judgmental. It teaches you to stand up for righteousness. It is definitely ones of the must-read books for women.

4. The Book Thief

Th novel, “The Book Thief” by the Australian author Markus Zusak gives out the inspiring message that no matter what the situation is, women can come out of it strongly on their own.

5. How To Be A Bawse

The Book, “How to be a Bawse”, by the Canadian YouTuber Lily Singh is a beautiful guide on tackling tough situations in life, supported by the examples of real-life situations. Lily’s classy and sassy video style has already been loved by a lot of women out there.

6. The Hunger Games Trilogy

Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy is one of the must-read books for women out there as the book’s lead character Katniss, makes you feel proud of being a girl. Her character motivates you to be your own hero.

7. Daughter By Court Order

“Daughter By Court Order”, by Ratna revolves around the story of a woman who has been disowned by her own family. The woman is fighting against money, power, deceit, and for her right to be recognized as a daughter. She has to handle everything on her own.

8. To Kill A Mocking Bird

The book is written by Harper Lee and is an all-time classic. The book revolves around a six-year-old protagonist who is a feminist and refuses to accept the societal norms and always challenges them.

9. The Diary Of A Young Girl

Must-Read Books For Women
The Diary Of A Young Girl. Wikimedia.

The novel by Anne Frank is set during the time of Nazi invading Netherlands. Anne Frank shares her feelings with her diary while she was in hiding for two years. The emotions and struggles make it one of the must-read books for women.

10. The Palace of Illusions

The book Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni shows the epic Mahabharata, through Draupadi’s eyes. Her problems and shortcomings are shown, along with the fact that how ego can lead to a battle.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya