Indian Khasi tribe puts women in control

Updated 10 March 2013
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Indian Khasi tribe puts women in control

India’s remote northeast is home to an ancient tribe whose high regard for women makes it a striking anomaly in a male-dominated country.
But as the world marks International Women’s Day today, the region has become a staging ground for an unlikely battle in which men are trying to end a matrilineal tradition practiced by more than a million people.
The Khasi tribe in the picturesque state of Meghalaya places women at the center of its society from the cradle to the grave.
“Go to any hospital and stand outside the maternity wards and listen,” says Keith Pariat, a men’s rights activist.
“If families have a boy, you will hear things like: ‘oh okay, he’ll do’. But if it’s a girl then there is joy and applause.”
Pariat is the chairman of Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai (SRT), an organization fighting to eradicate a tradition with tremendous staying power.
According to Khasi tradition, the youngest daughter inherits all ancestral property; men are expected to move into their wives’ homes after marriage and children must take their mother’s family name.
And, in a ruling which helps explain the grand welcome for female babies, all parents with ancestral property but no daughters are required to adopt a girl before they die, since they cannot leave the inheritance to their sons.
The matrilineal system has endured for thousands of years here, but now activists like Pariat are determined to overthrow it.
“When a man has to live in his mother-in-law’s house, it tends to make him a little quiet,” Pariat says.
“You are just a breeding bull. No one is interested in hearing your views about anything.”
The 60-year-old businessman believes that the matrilineal system has been “totally detrimental” to Khasi men.
“It puts no responsibility on their shoulders so they tend to take life easy and they go into drugs and alcohol and that cuts their life short,” he told AFP in the state capital Shilling.
It also makes them unappealing to Khasi women, who exercise their right to marry outside the community instead.
Tabor Langkhongjee, a 41-year-old entrepreneur and SRT member, says the choice is easy to understand.
“Khasi men don’t have any security, they don’t own land, they don’t run the family business and, at the same time, they are almost good for nothing,” he said.
A men’s rights movement did emerge in the early 1960s but petered out after hundreds of Khasi women turned up at one of their meetings, armed with knives.
SRT, founded in 1990, faces an uphill battle to overturn Khasi tradition, since India’s constitution guarantees the tribal councils’ right to set their own customary laws.
The clash between clan rules and Indian law is a familiar one, with the judiciary often expected to step in when gender rights are at stake.
In the past however, such conflicts have focused on expanding women’s rights whether in matters of inheritance, dowry or alimony in the case of Hindu and Muslim families. Men’s rights have never been the subject of debate.
In Shillong, most women dismiss the suggestion that their society is biased.
Although Khasi women are empowered to make their own decisions over marriage, money and other matters, political participation remains low, with women accounting for only four out of 60 state legislators.
“The reason the property is left to the youngest daughter is because she has the responsibility to look after the parents until they die,” said journalist Patricia Mukhim.
“Parents feel like they can always depend on their girls.”
The state’s gender ratio currently stands at about 1,035 females for every 1,050 men, higher than the global norm of 1,000 women for every 1,050 men.
Misogyny remains widespread in many parts of India.
The gang rape and murder of a female student in December on a bus in New Delhi fueled angry nationwide demonstrations.
Pesundra Reslinkhoy, a 25-year-old nursery school teacher in Shillong, said she appreciated the matrilineal system all the more after the Delhi attack.
“I think it is a good tradition for Khasi, that all the power will stay with women because it will keep us from many evil things,” she said.
The SRT has no plans to mount a legal challenge to the tribal customs, hoping instead that an informal campaign of brochure distribution and public meetings will convince more Khasis of the need for change.
But there are few signs of the group’s influence in the state’s tradition-bound villages, suggesting that the balance of power is unlikely to shift anytime soon.
“In most of Meghalaya, people only know the old ways and they like the old ways just fine,” Mukhim said.


WWE superstars take in the historic culture of Jeddah ahead of Greatest Royal Rumble

Updated 23 April 2018
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WWE superstars take in the historic culture of Jeddah ahead of Greatest Royal Rumble

Jeddah: Down the centuries the ancient coral buildings of Jeddah’s historic old town Al Balad have welcomed princes and kings, now Saudi Arabia’s architectural jewel has hosted a different kind of royalty.
The Greatest Royal Rumble will see 50 WWE athletes compete for glory this Friday at the King Abdullah Stadium, but before the event explodes into action, two of its superstars, Mojo Rawley and Mark Henry, took time to experience the culture and history of the city hosting the show.
Al Balad, ‘the town’ is the UNESCO World Heritage site that was once the beating heart of the Red Sea city and has stood for more than 1,400 years dating back to the 7th century.
For WWE superstar Mojo Rawley the visit came with a sense of personal history too as his parents once lived in Saudi Arabia.
“My parents have always told me about this beautiful country where they lived for years,” he said during a tour through the historic houses adorned with elaborate hand-carved wooden shutters and balconies,” said the athlete.
“I’ve always wanted to come and I’m thrilled to the fact that I am here enjoying this special historic place which I’m proud that is part of me, I’m very excited to see our Saudi fans at the Greatest Royal Rumble this coming Friday, it is going to be a historic occasion.”
While for “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry it was the Kingdom’s hospitality that has impressed him the most. “Ever since I got off the plane everyone welcomed me warmly. Sometimes we don’t get that back home.”
The two strongmen were guided through the narrow alleyways of the old town by Samir Qommusani, a respected lecturer with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage. As they strolled he spoke about the authentic spirit of Jeddah, its architecture, its customs and its Jeddawi food, which won approval from the wrestlers after a taste test.
“It is always a pleasure to receive the Kingdom’s guests in this historic town, Al-Balad always stunned visitors with its special spirit,” said Mr.Qommusani.
The superstars were also accompanied by the famous Saudi host of Laffat Al-Mamlakah show at MBC channel Loai Al Shareef, which often showcases the historic sites and ancient civilizations of the Arab peninsula.
“Saudi Arabia is a very rich country when it comes to culture and history and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity with our guests from the WWE in Jeddah. Mark Henry told me that he will be visiting Saudi Arabia again but next time to Makkah.”
Tickets are available online at WWE.SA, and are also from retail locations including the General Sports Authority offices in Riyadh and Damman, Red Sea Mall, Mall of Arabia and Al Andalus Mall. Tickets will also be on-sale at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium beginning Wednesday, April 25.
The Greatest Royal Rumble marks the start of a 10-year partnership between WWE and the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia. Samoa Joe will compete in an Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match against Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor and The Miz in one of an incredible seven Championship matches at the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
WWE fans will also see John Cena vs Triple H, The Undertaker vs. Rusev and Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Universal Championship match.
And recently WWE announced that two more Championship matches including the Raw Tag Team Championship match: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt versus Sheamus and Cesaro, and the United States Championship match: Jeff Hardy versus Jinder Mahal with Sunil Singh.