What Makes A Woman Attractive in Bhutan – Matriarchy in Bhutan

What makes a woman attractive in Bhutan? Apparently, it depends on the region. In the western regions of Bhutan, an attractive woman is one who can care for her farm. In the western part of Bhutan, the daughter inherits the farm (as they say, “because her parents love her so much” that they give the farm to her knowing that she will care for it). In some areas of Bhutan, the families are matrilineal, or as I was told “the woman is the boss” in the relationship. But, often, the inheritance depends on which child is not doing as well for him or herself.

An attractive woman is one who can care for her farm.
Two ladies making fresh butter, an attractive skill.

In the eastern regions, red cheeks and a tall and slim figure are considered attractive. Many young people move to the big city of Thimphu, get a better education, a non-agrarian job, and live together before getting married. Once they have tried it, if they think it will work, then he proposes. Around Thimphu there are many nightclubs where young people like to go to meet, to dance, with singing karaoke being a favorite pastime. The large festivals are also prime seasons for meeting potential mates. The average age of marriage is rising in the city to 25 but until recently, it was much lower.

Young people meeting at a festival in Thimphu.
Young people hanging out on a wall at a festival in Thimphu.

In Bhutan, there are no outward signs of marriage such as wedding rings or bracelets (Hindu women can wear white Shakha bracelets as an indication of their married status). When I asked, I was told, “you must trust.”

Dating in the Desh

Courtship, Bangladeshi style.

Bangladesh is a crowded country so getting away from the madding crowd for a quiet “date” with someone you are courting or being courted by… is somewhat a matter of real estate. Famous Lalbagh Fort, considered a mini Taj Mahal, looks quite different from what is shown on the Amazing Race TV show, but it is worth visiting. There is a mausoleum built by a grieving father, a harem with baths, sweet smelling flowers, and a 300-year-old pool. Interestingly, what makes the fort so attractive is not the tomb, pool, or harem. In a crowded country, the walkways and niches provide a private place in a public space for young Bangladeshi couples to court. This a romantic place and there must be something in the air.

Lalbagh Fort’s mausoleum to two daughters.

Love rocks!

Courting Deshi couples wait outside the gate for the Fort to open.
The harem at Lalbagh Fort with the crowded apartment blocks just outside the fence.