Patriarchy on the Matrilineal Line: A Bad Conditions for Minang Women

In Minangkabau, which adheres to a matrilineal system or the line of power in the hands of women, it turns out that there are many cases of violence against women. This may be called the practice of patriarchy in the Matrilineal line.

Tuba Fallopi

Grandma used to tease me every time I came home at night. Roughly the tease is like this:

Jan pulang sanjo kau, lah samo lo jo itiak pulang patang kanai alau lu baru kakandang” (Don’t go home late, you are the same as ducks coming home in the evening, you have to herd them off first-then cage them) my grandmother quipped when I returned home before sunset.

As a Minang woman, one of the most influential figures in my life is my grandmother, my father’s biological mother. Like Minang girls in general, the grandmother figure is an important figure who teaches about customs and how to live as a Minang woman.

Allusions to being a woman according to custom have become my daily diet. I received this kind of education from two years old until I entered college. This is inseparable from the decision of the mother/amak and father to stay at your parents’ house.

This made me wonder a lot because my grandmother once said, according to custom in Minangkabau, if husband and wife cannot live in their own house, it is the husband who goes with the wife’s family, not the other way around.

My father’s decision to stay at his house also confused me, apart from being talked about by neighbours, because it is somewhat different from the customary provisions carried out; if you live at your parent’s house, you will get a lot of privileges.

Yes, you know, even though the rough term is that father only “stays”, you are still considered a special guest as a son-in-law (Urang Sumando). As a guest, Amak’s parents will put their father first so that all household matters will be done by Amak.

Don’t get me wrong, my father is not the type of man who wants to be served by everything. He is a Minang man who is not rigid in domestic matters. However, you cannot openly show this because your parents will reprimand you.

Once, my father was helping my mother wash clothes. But before that, my father reminded her not to tell his in-laws. On the other day, my father was also caught making coffee in the kitchen; a moment later, the father-in-law or parents-in-law scolded Amak, saying that Amak is not good at serving her husband.

Minang Male Privilege

Phenomena like this are no longer a rare thing that happens in West Sumatra. It reminded me of an Uda who used to be a facilitator in a gender class in Padang. After the class, accompanied by Butterfly Pea tea that the participants picked at that time, I asked idly.

“Da, pasti sanang bana urang rumah Da nak, ndak anggan da mangarajoan urusan rumah” (Da, Uda’s wife must be thrilled, right, you are not reluctant to do housework), while blowing a puff of cigarette smoke, with his trademark smile, he answered.

“Hee, diak kok lai di kontrakan padang ko lai mah. Nan ibo wak, kok lah pulang da ka rumah mintuo da, pai maambiak aia ka dapua surang sen, lah kanai sindia padeh da mah, nan kanai bini da biaso e”. “(Hey, if you’re still renting out in Padang, that’s okay. Pity, when you go back to your in-laws’ house, getting water to your own kitchen, you get spicy sarcasm, and it’s usually Uda’s wife who get hits)”.

Yes, it’s still about that in some Minang families, it’s forbidden for a man to do kitchen work, especially if he is Urang Sumando, even though he lives in the house of his wife’s biological parents.

If the wife is not good at serving her husband, then the wife will be blamed. It’s always associated with politeness and courtesy, although as far as I’ve tried to find out, I’ve never found if it is true that Minangkabau customs taught that men are not allowed to do domestic work.

Getting to know the Bundo Kanduang tradition

The perspective of the Minang people, who put men first, again made me reflect on how complex the issue of gender equality is in West Sumatra, which is famous for its matrilineal system. This system based on mother power still puts men first.

In the Matrilineal system in Minangkabau, women have privileges related to property rights, such as owning rice fields, houses, fields, and land. In their families, it is difficult to be intimidated by their husbands because Mamak (the wife’s brother) will be the primary protector, so husbands cannot be arbitrarily against their wives.

Talking about the matrilineal system, this cannot be separated from the role of Bundo Kanduang in the Minangkabau Tribe. Bundo kanduang, for most historians, is still a mysterious figure of its existence. It could be because in ancient times, before Islam came, the Minangkabau people did not know the tradition of writing, so the message conveyed about who actually bundo kanduang could only be done through kaba (story).

This kaba is passed on from generation to generation through fairy tales like my grandmother, who once told stories about Bundo Kanduang. In the fairy tale, in the Pagaruyuang and Singiang-ngiang war era, Bundo Kanduang was lifted to the sky in the Gadang House. Of course, this is just a figure of speech when Bundo Kanduang fled to a village called Lunang and changed her name to Mandeh Rubiah. This was done to hide her identity.

Arriving at the Lunang village, Mandeh Rubiah also founded a small kingdom based on a fairy tale from her grandmother. This is the origin of the birth of Bundo Kanduang in the story.

The throne of Bundo Kanduang is still recognized for its greatness and is now at the seventh lineage level. Grandma ends the story with a quote from Bundo Kanduang which contains:

Bundo kanduang

limpapeh nan gadang house

Amban puruak key handle

Amban puruak aluang bunian

Amban puruak puruanan taduah

Pusek jalo pumpunan fish

Pusek jalo pumpunan rope

Sumarak in the village

Sumarak at the gadang house

Decoration in the village

Departing from the saying above, Bundo Kanduang is the central solid pillar of the role model and the supervisor of the behaviour of children and grandchildren in the community. Bundo Kanduang is also a person who carries secrets and has the power to protect the key to the sustainability of the traditional order in a people.

The figure of Bundo Kanduang has material power for the benefit of the people, has management intelligence, spiritual inspiration for her people and has good social relations. Simply put, in philosophy, Bundo Kanduang is a female figure who makes decisions for the sustainability of the people.

Who is the figure of Bundo Kanduang?

There are many views about who can become Bundo Kanduang; one says that the right to become Bundo Kanduang is the wife of a datuk. According to a female writer from West Sumatra, Ka’Bati, this view is slightly wrong.

“This is wrong; this view results from people who do not understand traditional values. That’s the New Order’s perspective, placing Bundo Kanduang’s position based on his husband’s position. As a result, Bundo Kanduang loses its function; if Bundo Kanduang is based on the husband’s position, it is no longer Matrilineal.”

Meanwhile, another view reveals that Bundo Kanduang is a married woman who is the most active in the clan and the most trusted in many affairs; she is fair and wise and even becomes the tampek baiyo by the people. Because of this, the people will agree that this figure will become Bundo Kanduang, and her legitimacy has been guaranteed by customs.

Shifting Position of Minang Women in West Sumatra

How strong is the position of Minangkabau women in the matrilineal system guarded by Bundo Kanduang? However, even though Minangkabau adheres to a matrilineal system, violence against Minang women still occurs in the domestic and/or public spheres.

The Women’s Crisis Center/WCC Conscience Organization noted that throughout 2021 the number of Domestic Violence/KDRT in Padang increased to 104 cases. In fact, if the highest decision in the matrilineal system is indeed held by Bundo Kanduang, of course, Bundo Kanduang will reprimand the niniak-mamak who normalize this kind of violence.

“Ah, granny, if grandma was still here”, I cursed.

There was the sound of children beating various percussion instruments as an alarm to immediately carry out sahur. After eating, I continued the journey that I didn’t know when it would end.

As I went back through the noisy streets with the Vespa I was driving, with confusion in my heart and mind, I remembered one of my grandmother’s advice, that Bundo Kanduang can do good things, jiko karuah kamanjaniahan, pai tampek batanyo, pulang tampek babarito.

Tuba Fallopi

A Minang girl, a survivor of sexual violence, was born on September 5. Instagram @tubafallopi_

Evacuate in the Equal Room, April 18, 2022

(Translator: Marina Nasution)

Tuba Fallopi

Seorang Gadis Minang, penyintas kekerasan seksual lahir pada tanggal 5 September. Instagram @tubafallopi_
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