Essay on the status of tribal women in matriarchal society


Generally, it is believe that the status of women in matriarchal tribes is higher than that of patriarchal tribes, but a survey of Indian matriarchal tribes shows that it is not so. In India among the Khasi tribe, one finds matrilocal residence and matrilineal traditions. They trace their lineage from some princess.

In their mythology the creator is female. The lineage is traced through the mother. The daughter inherits the property of the mother. Man’s earning belongs to the mother’s family before marriage and to the wife’s family after marriage. Most of the religious ceremonies are performed by women.

Most of the ancestors who are worshipped are women. Diseases, death and security are mostly connected with goddesses. Women work as priests on religious occasions. They are the leaders in social and religious fields. In Khirim kingdom a woman is the highest priest and administrator. Inspite of so much power of women one finds few cases of misbehavior among men. On the other hand, they are highly respected and exercise wide powers after marriage. Khasi woman considers her husband as her master.


Divorce is possible only by mutual consent and the non- consenting partner gets compensation. Just as the wives are free, the husbands are also free in so many matters.

Thus it is clear that the matriarchal social organization itself is not the sufficient cause for the lower status of men. It may be definitely higher in patriarchal societies and patrilocal residence.

Another example of matriarchal society is found among the Garo people. In it children are members of the mother’s family. Garo people consider themselves as descendants of some women. Lineage is carried on from the mother.

The daughter inherits the property of the mother. No one can transfer his property to his son though he may use the property of his wife. The proposal of marriage is made from the bride’s side but the male may marry several women. However, more than three wives are exceptional. No party has to pay the price of the bride or the groom. Widows are not allowed to remarry for a sufficiently long period.


This is so that the minor may get time to become major and the property of the family may remain in the family. Thus, women have to pay the price of their higher status t through mental strain. The widow has to marry the nephew of her dead husband. If she fails to do this she has to pay compensation to him.

In Garo tribe there is no prostitution though instances of adultery are not uncommon. Adulterous males are given death sentence though adulterous females are given minor punishment. But if she is guilty of adultery again and again she is also given capital punishment. Divorce is possible on the basis of adultery. Divorce is also possible if the woman refuses to work.

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