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Status of Women in the Rural Khasi Society of Meghalaya

De, Utpal Kumar and Ghose, Bholanath (2007): Status of Women in the Rural Khasi Society of Meghalaya.

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The issue of empowerment of women has been much discussed at various levels to find out the solution to age-old problem of gender discrimination, exploitation of women and to uplift their status and position in the society. However, in most of the tribal societies even if poor, women always have an instilled special position and role they play in different spheres with great responsibility vis a vis their counterpart men. The Khasi society of Meghalaya is such a society, commonly known as matrilineal where authority, title, inheritance, residence after marriage and succession are traced through female line. So it is presumed that they do not require any special effort to make them aware and get social, economic, political or psychological understanding and knowledge to establish their rights along with men in their society as they are automatically placed on an esteemed level. They are presumed to have access to education, ownership of property, authority in their family and society; they are the heads of their families and decide what to be done or not etc. But a recent survey by us in the rural areas of Meghalaya shows that about one-third of the families are headed by the male. Also many of the families headed by females who are either widow or deserted. Also in the political sphere, hardly anybody is there who is female and even in the Dorbar; females are not allowed to take part in the meeting or decision-making. But in most of the socio-economic activities, still now dominance on female is observed even though they are assumed to be physically weak. Also, even though some families are headed by males it may be that they are just to carry out activities with the guidance of their female counterpart who has better control over assets and therefore no fear of loosing anything even if they are deserted by their husbands. Therefore, a question may arise whether in Khasi tribe the status of women is ascribed or prescribed by the society. Also it is pertinent to enquire about the direction to which the position and status of women are moving with the development of the society. This paper is thus an attempt to examine the dynamics of status and role of tribal women in Meghalaya, especially of Khasi women. It is examined through a number of social, economic, political, cultural, psychological and attitudinal indicators on the basis of the primary data on such factors collected from two villages in East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya.

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