Women turning backs on matrilineal society in India’s northeast

SHILLONG, India, June 25, 2006 (AFP) – It’s not that Rosanna Lyngdoh Mawphlang isn’t grateful that under her Khasi tribe’s matrilineal system she, rather than her brothers, will inherit the family’s sprawling 21-roomed home. It’s just that she’s not sure she wants all the responsibility that goes with it.

“I know this is a privilege that the youngest daughter enjoys but I have my own life to lead,” said Mawphlang, at 34 already carving a name for herself as a rights activist in India’s remote northeastern state of Meghalaya.

“I can’t be responsible for everything. The system should change,” she told AFP in the cosy sitting room of the family home in a quiet suburb of the state capital Shillong — known as the Scotland of the East for its cool, drizzly climate and hilly terrain.

Under Khasi customs dating back more than 1,000 years, children carry their mother’s family name and women have the main say in the running of the household — subject however in cases of dispute to an uncontestable veto by their maternal uncles.

Aside from worship of the sun and moon, the sacrifice of roosters, the strong tradition of nurturing girl children and the liberal consumption of rice wine, the more than a million-strong tribe