Meghalaya council faces flak after passing bill stripping Khasi women of ST status if she marries a non-Khasi

Justifying the bill's approval, KHADC chief executive member HS Shylla had said mixed marriages and inadequate laws had posed a serious threat to the minority Khasi community.

Published: 27th July 2018 08:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2018 08:17 PM   |  A+A-

Depressed woman

Image used for representational purpose.

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: A bill which a Meghalaya autonomous council passed with the provision of stripping a Khasi (tribe) woman of her scheduled tribe (ST) status and other privileges if she marries a non-Khasi has ruffled the feathers of women activists in the state.

According to Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018, notified on Tuesday and passed on Wednesday by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), the woman's children will also be viewed as non-Khasis.

The bill states: "Any Khasi woman, who marries a non-Khasi, as well as her offspring(s) born out of such marriage(s) shall be deemed as non-Khasi and lose the Khasi status and all the privileges and benefits as a member of the Khasi tribe who cannot claim preferential privileges under any law."

Justifying the bill's approval, KHADC chief executive member HS Shylla said mixed marriages and inadequate laws had posed a serious threat to the minority Khasi community. However, women activists described the Bill as unconstitutional. They said they would challenge it if it gets the Governor's nod.

"It is our men who had allowed outsiders to encroach upon our land and settle down here and now, they are talking about protecting their women by preventing them from marrying non-tribals," said activist Jaynie N Sangma.

Another activist, Agnes Kharshiing of Shillong-based Civil Society Women's Organisation, said: "These so-called tribal protectors destroyed our forests and land through corrupt means. It is unfortunate that they are now trying to target women".

Legal experts say the Bill may not stand if challenged in a court. In this regard, they pointed out to a recent Supreme Court judgement that said choosing a life partner is a fundamental right of a person and as such, consent of a family or community is not necessary for marriage between two adults. Meghalaya is a matrilineal society but the men in the state call the shots in political spheres.

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