Lakshadweep is a matriarchal society where women have a dominant say, so much so that any home without a girl child is considered a wretched home. Dowry is paid by the groom’s family, and after the marriage the husband moves into the wife’s family. It is perhaps the safest society for women in the country with only one case of domestic abuse reported in the last decade, and no cases of rape or molestation. Women stay on the beaches till late into the night; sometimes they even sleep there.
However, a drastic difference in the levels of education between men and women in the younger generation, is slowly brewing into a potential social crisis. “Most women are graduates or post-graduates, while men are less focused on education. But after marriage, these women usually stay at home while the men go out and work. It is a classic recipe for trouble”, says Sunidha Ismayil, chairperson of the State Social Welfare Board.
“Unfortunately, women are unwilling to come out and work elsewhere if they do not find a government job. Though we are trying our best there is reluctance on their part to work anywhere else other than the Secretariat. Perhaps they are apprehensive about the consequences of violating social norms. They don’t even run tuition centres.”
For Shameera Beegum who became a mother a year ago, an improvement in health facilities is the top priority. “We have no faith in hospitals here, the facilities are so poor”, she says. “If there is a gynaecologist, there will be no cardiologist, and if both are there wouldn’t be a generator operator. No pregnant woman would want to be in an operation theatre here”.
These days, most families prefer to move to Kochi and rent a house there around the fifth month of pregnancy. “It is much better than getting evacuated in a helicopter in the last minute”, she says. Ironically, according to a popular myth about Kavaratti, Sheikh Mohammed Kasim, the 17th century saint who built the Ujra mosque had blessed the women in the island to deliver children without pain.
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