THIS BAZAAR, called Ima Keithel (Mother’s Market), is in Imphal, India in the state of Manipur, and was started in the 16th century when the men were off fighting in wars and the local women ran the production and trade in the city. Traditionally, men are banned from selling at the market but are allowed in to shop. They can’t just hang out though, they’ll get the boot. Some men have been able to enter the market as porters, carrying other people’s groceries. Throughout the centuries, Manipuri women have been self-advocating for women’s rights and equality, and making a stand against the government.
Besides the potential improprieties if men were allowed to work in the market, a big reason the women are keen to keep this to themselves is it is a symbol of the struggle for gender equality. As Elite Daily puts it, “Men have countless job opportunities in other towns. This Mother’s Market is the only place that levels the playing field to the advance of women in town.” Predictably, this brings about criticism from many who assert that to be truly equal men should be allowed in the market as well. From where I stand though, when the pendulum has long been on the side of patriarchy, it has to swing to the other side before you can achieve balance.