The High Court of Meghalaya on Tuesday ruled that the women in the State have the right to participate in the election of the heads of traditional village bodies. Despite the three principal communities of Meghalaya – Garo, Khasi and Jaintia – being matrilineal in their social set-up, traditional village bodies did not allow women to participate in elections in a case related to the election of the headman of Nohwet village under the State’s Pynursla subdivision.
The case was against the Syiem of Hima Khyrim. Syeim is a king-like chieftain and Hima, in the Khasi language, is similar to a kingdom.
“…if election of the headman of village Nohwet takes place, the women shall also be permitted to cast their vote. However, the outcome of such election shall be subject to the final outcome of the present writ petition,” he said.
Bose Swell Khongthohrem, a former headman of Nohwet had filed the petition against the Syiem and the Sordar (head of several villages in a specific area) concerned for allegedly denying women their right to take part in the election process of the village Dorbar, or council.
Mr. Khongthohrem said he was removed through a secret ballot as headman after he defied the tradition to let women vote.