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.


Donald Trump, ‘Holmes & Watson’ win Razzie worst film awards

Updated 23 February 2019
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Donald Trump, ‘Holmes & Watson’ win Razzie worst film awards

  • The tongue-in-cheek Razzies, created in 1980, serve as an antidote to Hollywood’s Oscars
  • Winners are announced before the Academy Awards ceremony — the highest honors in the movie industry

LOS ANGELES: US President Donald Trump and a comedic movie take on Sherlock Holmes on Saturday topped the annual Razzie awards for the worst performances and films of 2018.
“Holmes & Watson,” starring Will Ferrell and John. C. Reilly, was the biggest “winner,” taking four trophies including worst film and “worst rip-off.” Reilly also was named worst supporting actor in what Razzie founder John Wilson called the “clueless parody” of the classic British detective tale.
The tongue-in-cheek Razzies, created in 1980, serve as an antidote to Hollywood’s Oscars. Winners were announced a day before Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony — the highest honors in the movie industry.
Trump won two worst actor Razzies for appearing as himself in the 2018 documentaries “Death of a Nation,” from conservative film maker Dinesh D’Souza, and liberal Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9.”
White House aide Kellyanne Conway was voted worst supporting actress for her archival footage in “Fahrenheit 11/9.”
In an unusual twist, Melissa McCarthy was deemed worst actress, for her puppet comedy “The Happytime Murders,” as well as getting the Razzie Redeemer Award for her Oscar-nominated role in literary drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
“Gotti,” about late New York Mafia boss John Gotti, escaped with no “wins” despite getting six nominations, including worst picture, actor and “worst screen combo” for stars John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston.
Nominees and winners of the Razzies are voted for online by around 1,000 Razzie members from 24 countries, who sign up online and pay a $40 membership fee.