As I was having breakfast this morning, I bumped into a documentary on KBC. What? I was channel surfing and I saw a guy climbing a tea tree. Anyway, I watched for maybe an hour, because I like documentaries. In that one hour, I saw a pretty girl on a horse, naked men doing the twist on tea leaves, and a 16 year-old crying because of forced marriage. He was a guy.
I watched the show in bits and pieces, so I probably missed the point and the context, but I can tell you the girl on the horse was part of a caravan, the guys doing twist were processing raw tea [they weren’t completely naked – they wore loin cloths], and the 16 year-old, well, he was just special. Here’s what happened.
In Shangri-La, society is matriarchal, so your mother pays your dowry. This little boy’s mother couldn’t pay for his wife, so she married him off to a rich family. No, that isn’t a typo. Since he had no dowry, he had to agree to be a mboch lowly worker for the bride’s family, in exchange for sex and conjugal rights marital bliss. I don’t know just how … flowered … this little boy was, but he was wailing the whole time and didn’t seem to like the idea at all.
I can’t quite tell if he was upset about leaving home, getting married, becoming a slave, or the fact that his new wife might nag him to death. The 19 year-old girl had chosen him specifically. She had been married once before, but according to their law, if a girl doesn’t like her husband, she can ditch him and marry another one. Er … yeah.
The bride’s home was far from the groom’s, so he was taken by his cousins on a caravan. The wedding was a big deal. The groom’s mother had to stay home because she was ashamed that she couldn’t afford dowry, but at the bride’s home, the guys and girls partied separately and had a blast. The couple only meets when the party is over. The groom cried for most of the ceremony, but his cousins cheered him up, reminding him that he had married well. Again, not a typo.
Now, I’m just curious here, but would this be counted as child labour and/or forced marriage? The boy is *cough*ahem*cough* only 16, and he looked pretty upset, but I don’t see any FIDA UNICEF lawyers complaining. I guess double standards aren’t just for the guys.
So, based on my brief viewing of the documentary, here are five reasons why matriarchy isn’t common.
- It takes advantage of double standards. In India and Maasailand, men can be prosecuted for marrying child brides. In Shagri-La, child grooms are perfectly legal.
- Child labour is legal, as long as the child in question is a boy.
- Women are allowed to have multiple husbands. Two or three brothers can marry the same woman and live happily ever after, but by law, these … er … couples (?) are only allowed to have two kids – in total.
- In the salt well villages, women work from 4.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. They carry barrels of water that each weigh 15 kg, then they walk uphill for 20km to the drying pan. They make up to 12 trips a day. Meanwhile the guys trade the salt, build houses … and do housework.
- In bigamist families, a portrait can have more than one dad, and nobody thinks it’s weird.
Still wonder why the world hates feminists? And in case you think I made this up, the name of the documentary is Tea Road To The Skies. I actually couldn’t remember the name [though I remembered the © date was 2007] so I Googled ‘tea caravan skies 2007’ and voilà! Yay Google!! Of course, it’s quite possible that things have changed by now. That was three years ago…
♫ You’re the one ♫ S.W.V ♫