By Prerna Bhatia
An article I read recently proclaimed that the U.S., soon to be followed by the other countries of the world, is moving from a patriarchal to a matriarchal society. It may be true for the U.S., but it is still a farfetched dream in developing countries like India. Some people say that there are some matriarchal societies in India which bear the exception, like Kerala and Meghalaya, however, the system they follow is not matriarchal but matrilineal.
Matriarchal, Matrilineal, Matrifocal and Matrilocal Systems of the Society
Most of these systems are only recorded on paper, and there are very few societies which follow them because patriarchy is embedded deep into the system since time immemorial. It is ironical that most of these systems are seen in local tribes and districts of Asia and Africa, which are considered to be underdeveloped/developing.
THE MATRIARCHAL SYSTEM
The matriarchal system is a complete opposite of the patriarchal system; it is a social system in which females hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of the property at the specific exclusion of men, at least to a large degree. There is a dearth of societies truly existing under matriarchy; however, it is believed that there existed a matriarchal system in the 19th century Spain
THE MATRILINEAL SYSTEM
The matrilineal system is a system in which one belongs to one’s mother’s lineage, where children are identified in terms of their mother rather than their father, and extended families and tribal alliances form along female bloodlines. Apart from Meghalaya in India, matrilineality exists in parts of Burma and South Africa too!
THE MATRIFOCAL SYSTEM
The matrifocal system is a society with the focus on women, and especially mothers, though not necessarily dominated by women or mothers. There was a matrifocal golden age before patriarchy, but this system is not seen anywhere predominantly.
THE MATRILOCAL SYSTEM
The matrilocal system is a societal system in which the offspring of a mother remains living in the mother’s house, thereby forming large “clan-families”, typically consisting of three or four generations living under the same roof. Apart from Africa and Asia, it is also seen in parts of Europe and North America.
Now that we know the difference between all of them, we can easily say that there is a huge difference between the matriarchal and matrilineal system. In the matriarchal system, people are not only identified by the female lineage, but decision-making rights are given to the women. However, no society has completely followed it till now.
The Societal System of Kerala and Meghalaya
Meghalaya follows a traditional matrilineal system and even though the women aren’t given autonomy and decision-making abilities (there is seldom a woman in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha as an MP, and the local village head is a ‘headman’), they have been empowered in other ways. Women don’t follow the ‘parda’ system, and there is no restriction on their movement. There are no female foeticide, infanticide, or bride burning cases, thus, women get equal rights.
The 1891 Census recorded 56 per cent families in Kerala as matrilineal, and the other 44 percent as patrilineal. However, a matrilineal system is now non-existent and illegal.
Having said that, women in Kerala definitely enjoy a better status than they do in other states. The sex ratio (women outnumber men in all the districts) and the literacy rate (93.91%) are proof of the same. There is women participation and empowerment in politics too.
Even though there is women participation in these states, they don’t follow a matriarchal system, and thus, there is no hope of the world shifting to matriarchy any time in the future because this is the better side of the picture. In other states, women are still not given equal status as men, they are looked down upon, and the cases of rape and female infanticide and foeticide are at an all time high. Thus, men don’t need to fear women power yet, instead, empower them to realise their potential, and rise up to all the opportunities life throws at them.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.