Fali - Marriage and Family

Patrilocal marriage follows the rule of exogamy. Polygamy is practiced most by the noble class, and nowadays a man scarcely ever has more than four or five wives. Rather late marriage (16 years for girls and 24 for boys) takes place, in principle, after a long engagement. Despite the fact that their parents arrange the marriage, the prospective bride and groom are not obligated to acquiesce in their choice. The dowry owed to a girl's father, the payments of which can be spread over several years, is composed of services furnished (farm labor, construction), goods (animals, strips of cotton [ djolu ], clothing), and money. An average dowry corresponds approximately to 400,000 CFA francs (about U.S.$800). A married couple may divorce, under the arbitration of the head of the village. When the divorce is pronounced to be the woman's fault, the husband recovers the sum total of the dowry; in the opposite case, he loses it. In both cases, unweaned children remain with the mother; afterward they live with the father. Serious litigations that do not find satisfaction in Fali common law can be heard by the nearby Peul sultan or else in the city law court. Adultery, formerly punished by death, is today handled by fines. Corporal chastisements for the woman are also applied, with the greatest rigor, but stop short of mutilation. Child adoptions are common, both of Fali children and even of outsiders.

The domestic unit is composed of the husband, his wife or wives, their children, the paternal grandparents, and sometimes widowers or widows of the uterine line. The numerous family responsibilities that stem from this mixture of kin are generally borne well. Inheritance is governed by the rules of patritineality.

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