Patriarchy Reinterpreted: The Case of Naga Traditional Society

Friday, December 6th, 2013, 09:56 WIB


As is common in the world, Naga society is characteristically patriarchal. For this reason, certain feminist views consider it as a society where men dominate and discriminate women. However, what happened in Naga society is equal sharing responsibilities between men and women, especially in villages and families. Historically, the traditional Naga society can be considered as a huntering-gathering society. Such kind of society is strongly maintain egalitarian tradition, which dates from 100,000 years ago (Boehm, 2011). Meanwhile, patriarchal society originated about ten to twenty thousand years ago. In this context, the issue is not: is there gender inequality among Naga people, but is there any concept of gender inequality among Naga?

It is emphasized that, people live in more gender-egalitarian in huntering and gathering and anarchist/communist societies (Lionel, Sim, 2013). This is prevailed among the Naga people until 1950. In other words, Naga people in the past is more equal in term of gender relation than todays because of their pre-modern traditions. Then, Nagaland become a small province located in the extreme East of India border to Myanmar. Indigenous people of Nagaland, called Nagas, received American Baptist Christianity in 1872. Today, Nagas consist of 98% Baptist Christians, so that Christianity is the predominant religion in the province. Moreover, Naga society is strongly communitarian because there is no individual could live separated from the entire community (Harvey, 2000).

Lemwang Chuhwanglim, a Ph.D. student at ICRS UGM, brilliantly presented this interesting issue. He is a young research scholar and activist from Nagaland. He has completed his Master in the Post Graduate Diploma in Conflict Resolution and Interfaith Relations from South India. Then, he received his Master of Religion and Cross-Cultural Studies from CRCS, UGM, Indonesia. He used to work for the Christian Church Ministry in Nagaland. He worked as a facilitator in peace building and conflict transformation for 6 years, especially among young people women, church and NGOs leaders and Naga Freedom fighters. His life passion is to fight for the social Justice and peace of any indigenous people.

Lemwang clearly described about how and why many people have the prejudice that there are discrimination and domination of men upon women in the Naga society. Such prejudices make women feel they are dominated, discriminated, and subjugated by men. Furthermore, Lemwang convincingly describes the historical context. For instance, he emphasized that the spread of feminist ideology in Naga society can be trace back to the social change emerged since 1960s along with few Naga people who are educated in western countries. In this regards, the westernized Naga intellectuals misinterpret gender relation among Naga people as they are influenced by Western and European feminist theories of gender equality and women empowerment.

Lemwang brilliantly claimed that usings of non-contextual theory in the Naga society create problem and leads to gender conflict in the society.  Accordingly, Lemwang argued that to maintain peaceful coexistence among different people with different gender backgrounds in the indigenous society, one should avoid adopting or imposing any non-contextual theory in any indigenous society. Then, he claimed that “the pre-modern Naga society will be portrayed as more peaceful society than the modern society in terms of gender issue.” Therefore, his analysis contributes to understand how gender roles in the pre-modern Naga society and in the modern Naga society are different. (admin/che)