Nepali - Marriage and Family

Marriage. All groups in Nepal follow some form of clan, lineage, or local descent group exogamy, at least through the fifth generation. Hypergamy is not commonly practiced except among some Rajputs in the Terai and a few interethnic marriages where trade-offs are made between ritual status and class. However, for many groups marriages entail hypergamous relations among families and lineages as a post facto result of the higher status accorded wife takers over wife givers. For most high-caste Hindu groups dowry and bride-wealth is an important factor in marriages and an indication of the status of the families involved. Nevertheless, for most Tibetan-and Tibeto-Burman-speaking groups a ritual and often substantial payment is made by the groom to the bride's family. Cross-cousin marriage is not practiced among many groups such as the Sherpa and Hindu caste groups. However, the Thakuri permit and prefer cross-cousin matrilateral marriage. Other groups such as the Tamang and Nyinba prefer bilateral cross-cousin marriage. In general, most marriages are made between couples of the same generation. However, the average age of marriage partners is increasing as education becomes more important and available. Monogamy is the most common form of marriage in Nepal, although a few Individuals in most groups also practice polygyny. A number of Tibetan-speaking people, such as the Nyinba, Sherpa, and Baragaonli, practice variant forms of fraternal polyandry. Throughout Nepal most marriages are arranged by the Parents of the couple, though with varying degrees of involvement and control. Among high-caste Hindus, marriages have typically been arranged wholly through the decisions of the couples' families. Young men and women of Tibeto-Burman-speaking groups in the middle hills, on the other hand, have more occasion to interact with one another and may induce their parents merely to arrange marriage ceremonies for them. An unusual, and perhaps more legendary than actual, practice among Tibeto-Burman-speaking groups is wife capture. In such a case, following the abduction of a woman, both she and her family need to agree to a marital arrangement or the relationship is dissolved. Eloping is mainly practiced among more impoverished families. After marriage, couples typically live with the husband's extended family for a number of years. However, among the Sherpa marriage takes place in stages, perhaps for years. Thus a husband and wife may continue to live with their respective natal families for years and only visit each other. Once the wife's dowry is arranged and/or they have children, they move in together. In groups throughout Nepal young wives look forward to visiting their natal families during their first few years of marriage. It is not uncommon for women to leave their husbands and return to their natal family or for men to leave their wives and form a union with a new wife. If bride-price has been paid it may have to be returned in part to the husband. Women are allowed to claim rights to their husband's property if they have been abandoned, especially if they have children. Second marriages are not condoned for high-caste Hindu women, and they result in a reduction in social and ritual status if they occur. Men also gain a bad reputation if they divorce their wives, but they do not lose ritual status if they remarry. For other groups Divorce involves much less stigma for women. Among the Magar, for instance, women who leave their husbands and remarry lose a few ritual privileges, but this is nothing compared to what happens to high-caste women.


Domestic Unit. Most young couples live with the husband's parents for a number of years, usually until the father of the family dies. When this happens the brothers divide the patrimony. However, beforehand there may be many tensions and status considerations within the household among brothers and their wives. These conditions and the increasing need for household economic diversification often lead one of the brothers, with or without his wife, to seek employment or engage in trading outside the village, and sometimes outside the country, in order to provide cash and be able to act with a degree of autonomy. Polyandrous households appear to have more continuity and stability than extended families made up of monogamous couples.


Inheritance. Inheritance throughout Nepal generally is based on the traditional Mitakshara system, which is encoded in Nepalese law and which states that a legal right to an equal share of the household property goes to each son. In practice, of course, deciding equal shares of partible property is complicated and often fraught with tensions. There have been reforms in the inheritance law for women recently so that they supposedly have more equal rights to the property of their natal family, if they are unmarried, and to their husband's property if he dies. Formerly—and no doubt still today, in practice—they had to wait until they were 35 years old to claim an equal share of their father's property. If their husband had died, they only had been allowed rights to use the land, which reverted to their husbands' agnates.


Socialization. In general, Nepalis indulge and enjoy their young children. Toilet training and weaning are relaxed and breast-feeding may continue until children are 3 years old. Most Hindu and Buddhist groups have a number of rites of passage for children such as first rice feeding, first haircutting, puberty rites for girls, and sacred-thread or initiation ceremonies for boys. At about 8 years old, children are expected to begin to perform domestic chores. Girls carry water and fodder and care for young children and boys may be expected to tend animals.

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