SHILLONG, Sep 06: The number of mixed marriages seen in Khasi society today is directly linked to the number of single mothers, according to the NGO, Maitshaphrang.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Maitshaphrang convener Michael Syiem said that the organization in its 30-year-long campaign for implementation of the Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act across the Khasi-Jaintia Hills region has found out that there is an increasing number of Khasi women who are single mothers.
The KHAD (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) Bill passed recently by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) seeks to declare Khasi women who marry non-tribals as “non-Khasis”.
The noted social activist said that the Khasi women and their children are abandoned by their husbands without giving any maintenance adding as per the 2011 census, 68 per cent of the families are living below poverty line (BPL).
“The outcome of this problem due to increasing number of single mothers especially in rural areas where they are having many children and are without maintenance have created fear among some Khasi women to marry men from their own tribe,” he said.
According to him, this trust deficit among the Khasi women has however open up opportunity to other people to take advantage.
Syiem also pointed out it is very easy for a man to walk out of a marriage in a matrilineal society adding that men tend to shift the responsibility of looking after welfare of their children to the family of their wives since children are taking the mother’s surname.
“Yet we cannot blame all Khasi men are like that but if the system is lenient, those who are without responsibility will always take advantage,” he said.
Moreover, Syiem also said that those who are not willing to accept the findings of the Maitshaphrang can conduct their own research because many will not understand the problems faced by single mothers especially those coming from poor families.
Meanwhile, the Maitshaphrang urged the KHADC to first find out the cause and accordingly come up with solutions.
“We feel that the amendment Bill of the KHADC requires a lot of deliberation and discussion besides also taking the findings of the organization into consideration,” he said.
Also proposing its three suggestions, He said that one of solutions to this problem is to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the Khasi men through the implementation of the Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act.
“By doing this, if he (Khasi man) wants to divorce his wife he can but he has to ensure that maintenance is given to her and her children,” he said.
He said the other way is through the implementation of Equitable Distribution of Self Acquired and Ancestral Property Act and providing quality education.
“If our Khasi men are made responsible and trustworthy, then where else will our women turn to,” Syiem concluded.