Three Surprisingly Unusual Matriarchal Cultures in Asia

Many of us are familiar with traditional patriarchal societies that are widespread across the world. In patriarchy, the father is both the home and family head in many respects.

Can a matriarchal culture of gender relations be possible and viable? In a matriarchal system, the mother is the head of the home and family. Some matriarchal communities are successful worldwide.

Is Patriarchy the Only Possible Type of Culture?

Many of us know about patriarchal societies, which have been prevalent throughout history in many traditional societies of the past. In a patriarchal system, the father is the head of the household and family. In a patriarchy, the father holds the position of authority within the family and is in power. Over the course of history, cultures around the world began to adopt a more patriarchal framework, which is prevalent in most traditional societies and communities. That social system entails many consequences for gender inequality and corresponding stereotypical gender roles. Cultural norms and customs favor men, who have higher status in gender relationships. Women in such patriarchal societies presumably have lower status and lower rights in family relationships. Women are respected and admired mostly for being able to bear and raise children.

What Is a Matriarchal Culture?

A matriarchal system, on the other hand, is a social system in which the mother is the head of the household. Some of these societies with matriarchal cultures of social relationships have been successful across the world. These matriarchal communities have managed to survive to the present day. In these societies, women are the most important guiding force in politics and the economy, as well as in all other areas.

Let us look at some of them, which the editorial fellow at Town & Country, Sarah Madaus, briefly described. Let us learn about how these cultural communities have deviated from the western-patriarchal cultures. Within these communities, located in different parts of the world, women are in charge of everything, including the political system, the economy, and the larger social structure. This article focuses on three cultural groups in Asia.

The Minangkabau people of Indonesia

The Minangkabau people, commonly referred to as Minang, are an ethnic group that lives in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. The Minangs are the largest matrilineal culture in the world. It has a complex social system built on matrilineal clans and property passed down through female lineage, including land and homes.

The cultural beliefs of Minangs are that the mother is the most important person in society. Women in their society rule the domestic sphere. In Minangkabau society, marriage is permitted, but partners must have separate sleeping quarters.

The Khasi people of India

The Khasi people are an ethnic group native to Meghalaya in north-eastern India. Even though most Khasis live in Meghalaya, a large population of Khasis also reside in the neighboring state of Assam and certain regions of Bangladesh.

In the hilly Indian state of Meghalaya, property names and wealth are passed down from mother to daughter instead of from father to son. This is because in Meghalaya, the Khasi people have a matrilineal system of inheritance in their communities.

In this particular system, lineage and descent are determined by the clan that one’s mother belongs to. When women marry within the Khasi tribe, their surname is passed down rather than their husbands’.

The Khasi family is referred to as a “ling.” A ling commonly includes a mother, her husband, her unmarried sons, her married daughters, their spouses, and their offspring. In matrilineal families, such as those of the Khasis, the husbands visit their wives. Only mothers and mothers-in-law are permitted to care for children. Men are usually not permitted to attend family gatherings.

The Mosuo people of China

The Mosuo people are a small ethnic group that lives in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in China. They are also known as the Naxi amongst themselves. Geographically, they reside close to the border with Tibet. They adhere to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Mosuo people have a system of matriarchy in their society. The family lineage is determined by the women of the family. Their society is matrilineal, which means that ownership of property is passed down the same line of female ancestors. The mother has the primary role in raising the children in the family.

The Mosuo live in a surprisingly modern way. In many regards, women are equal to men. In other gender relationships, women are superior to men. Both women and men can have as many or as few sexual partners as they want without judgement. Extended families raise children and care for the elderly. Mosuo men build houses. They are responsible for livestock and fishing. They also assist in the upbringing of their sisters’ and female cousins’ children.