The Minangkabau, who live in Sumatra island in Indonesia is one of the few and largest matrilineal societies in the world. Here, the property is inherited from mothers to daughters, the lineage is followed from mother (instead of father) and a man who gets married moves to the household of his wife to live with her family. Besides, although this system is already interesting in a world where mostly patriarchy is followed, the Minangkabau mostly practice Islam.
For Minankabau, two main codes are very significant, Adet and Islam. Adet (that can be translated as tradition) is a complicated system that represents old matrilineal traditions and moral codes in the society. All Minangkabau talk about the importance of adet that was inherited from the times before Islam was adapted. However, some rules of adet contradicts with Islam and that contradiction causes conflicts in the society from time to time.
To maintain the adet, it is very important that women stay in their traditional house called rumah gadang, that they have inherited from their mothers.
In these houses where large families live together, Bundo Kanduang, which has taken its name from a legend and turned into a term used for the oldest sisters today, maintains the order. According to tradition, young boys start to live in the religious communal house of the village called suaru and when they grow older, they are encouraged to live outside their village. With this system, the boy gains experience and returns to his village like this and also possible rivalry with his sisters is avoided.
The Minangkabau, who live in Sumatra island in Indonesia is one of the few and largest matrilineal societies in the world.
However, this does not mean that there are no men in the house. When the daughters staying in the house get married, they settle in one of the rooms at the back of the house with their spouses, so the daughters of the house bring their husbands to their home. The man who has moved to his wife's house does not have much power at home but instead all men have more power and prestigious in their sisters houses. In other words, the place of “uncles” as males is very important in Minangkabau society.
Since this system is a little confusing for outsider, one of my informants, an elder women explained it like this: “In old times, marriages were generally arranged by families. The woman's family would want to find a hard-working man and the man's family would like to find a girl who will take good care of their son financially. We also got married to like this with my husband, and as it was customary, my family paid a good dowry to his family and my husband moved to our home. But he often goes to his sisters' house during the day because he is responsible from her niece and nephews. And in our house it is my brother who is responsible from our children. ”.
So it is usually the uncles (women's brother) who takes care of children in a household.
However, just like everywhere in the world, with the modernization process, this system in Sumatra island is also changing and starting to turn into a political identity rather than a tradition that is strictly followed. Many couples who live in the cities live in nuclear families, so extended families where women rule the household only continues in the villages. Also, as I mentioned before, the influence of Islam is another factor that threatens this tradition for some families.