TODAY -

Women in Khasi & Jaintia society are accorded high respect

Dr Kh Tombisana *



At home women take care of the nursing and rearing of the children, supervision of domestic activities, attending to the sick aged parents and other relatives in distress. This is the duty of the youngest daughter in both Khasi and Jaintia families. The Women folk are very sociable.

This is reflected in the structural pattern of their socio-political system, which by itself formed a social organization from the family unit to the Hima or state. There is no caste or class system and women are free to participate in any social activities.

The Women are hard-working, contributing in many respects to the family income by lending a helping hand in different economic activities. With the spread of education, women have taken jobs in govt. offices, many working as engineers, doctors, teachers of colleges and Universities and are known for their sincerity and proficiency.

One unique feature of the society is that the man has a dual crown, being an uncle in his sister’s house and a father to his children. The fact that the ancestral property is vested with the mother could be a mistake to suppose that the father is nobody in the Khasi-Jaintia society. The father has a strong position in his wife’s house as well as at his mother’s house.

The women have never been under the shadow of their men. The fame of Ka Latympang and Ka Pring Sariang the queen of the Jaintia is well known. Many women folk are standing up for elections and making known their presence. As early as 1937 we had a woman MP, Miss. Mavis Dunn Lyngdoh. In 1952, Mrs. B. Khongmen became an MP, now people like Mrs.R.Warjri, Mrs. M. War are MLA’s.

Women like Mrs. M. R. Kyndiah a Jaintia woman, Phidalia Toi, Probity Nongpluh social activist, and others have stood for elections. Prominent entrepreneurs like Mrs. Dolly Khonglah, Mrs. M.J. Passah, Mrs. Edwina Lyngdoh, Mrs. Obilet Tariang and many more are coming up as successful business women.

As Panchayati Raj does not exist in the Khasi-Jaintia society, the 73rd Amendment leaves the woman here untouched. As majority leaders in the political scenario, are men, women need no special reservation for Assembly seats, as they are vested with enough power under the matrilineal system.

Women here are not sitting idle; they have made their voices heard. Recently Probity Nongpluh a social activist won a case in the Guwahati High Court seeking 1/3rd reservation for women in the Municipal poll. The matter is still hanging in the Supreme Court.

In Meghalaya all decision bodies are male dominated, where all major decisions are in the hands of men. Therefore, real improvement can only happen when the patriarchal mindset of these bodies is reversed. It is only the inclusion of women in decision making process which will enable a change in attitudes in a far more effective manner than any legislation and amendments. The society will move forward if there is an equal partnership between men and women.

The limited nature of women participation in national decision-making institutions has an important consequence for women and for the legitimacy of the institutions. Where, women constitute half the population in a political system which supports equality and where both women men are legally eligible for political office, women’s participation should be equal to that of men.

If this is not the case, it signifies deep-flaws within the political system. Explanations for the very slow progress women have made in gaining political office around the world have been multi-causal, including their lack of time for politics due to their domestic obligations, their lack of socialization for politics, their lower social capital and weakest base than men owing to discrimination in schools and in the market, their under representation in the jobs that favor political careers, their marginalization within male-dominated parties, their inability to overcome male and incumbent bias in certain types of electoral systems.

Representation is not only a means of ensuring individual participation. It is also the responsibility of the representative to act on behalf of the people, including women, who elected them and reflect their ideas and aspirations.

Despite various measures undertaken by the government to reduce the gender gap in political participation, still, women‘s disproportionate absence from the political process in Meghalaya. The problem of gender gap is still prevalent in the unorganized sectors of the society.

Multi-causal, including their lack of time for politics due to their domestic obligations, their lack of socialization for politics, their lower social capital and weakest base than men owing to discrimination in schools and in the market, their under representation in the jobs that favor political careers, their marginalization within male-dominated parties, their inability to overcome male and incumbent bias in certain types of electoral systems.

Therefore, real improvement can only happen when the patriarchal mindset of these bodies is reversed. It is only the inclusion of women in decision making process which will enable a change in attitudes in a far more effective manner than any legislation and amendments. The society will move forward if there is an equal partnership between men and women.

Women‘s disproportionate absence from the political process would mean that the concerns of half the population cannot be sufficiently attended to or acted upon as it denies their view points sufficient opportunity to be integrated in the political system.


* Dr Kh Tombisana wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a political scientist and can be reached at Khtom79(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 17, 2017.


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