Marriage. Adult Hausa society is essentially totally married. Ideal marriage is virilocal/patrilocal, and it is polygynous: a man is allowed up to four wives at a time. The term in Hausa for co-wife is kishiya, from the word for "jealousy," often but not always descriptive of co-wife relations. Once men begin to marry, they are rarely single despite divorce because most are polygynous; nearly 50 percent of the women are divorced at some point, but there is such pressure to be married and have children that they tend not to stay unmarried long. Important social distinctions identify women in terms of their marital status. By custom, girls marry at the age of 12 to 14. There is some disagreement in the literature regarding the respectful nature of singlehood. Divorce is a regular occurrence, not surprisingly, given the brittle and formal relationship between spouses. Both men and women have a right to divorce, but for men it is easier. After divorce, most weaned children are claimed by their father.
Marriage is marked by bride-price, given by the groom's family to the bride, and a dowry for the bride provided by her family. Marriage is classified according to the degree of wife seclusion and according to whether it is a kin or nonkin union. Bilateral cross-cousin marriage is preferred.
Domestic Unit. The ideal household is the agnatically based gandu (family farm), formed by a man with his sons and their wives and children. After the senior male's death, the brothers may stay on together for a time. More frequently, each brother's household becomes a separate economic unit.
Inheritance. Consistent with Islamic practice, a woman can own and inherit in her own right, but her inheritance rights are subordinate to those of men. All of the wives married to a man at the time of his death are entitled, together with their children, to share one-quarter of his total estate if there are no agnatic descendants, or one-eighth of his estate if there are agnatic descendants. Women own property such as houses and land together with consanguines, even after marriage, and they inherit only half as much as their brothers.
Succession to leadership of the agnatic group and leadership of the compound is collateral. Farmland is inherited in the male line, the gandu being collectively owned by brothers.
Socialization. Women observe a postpartum taboo on sexual intercourse for a year and a half to two years, during which time the child is breast-fed. Toddlers are weaned onto soft foods and then to the standard diet. An older sister carries the infant on her back when the mother is busy, which extends into a special attachment between an adult man and his elder sister.
From infancy, boys and girls are treated differently. Boys are preferred; as they age, they learn that they are superior to girls and consequently to distance themselves from them and identify with things masculine. It is imperative for boys to separate from their mothers. Girls are trained to self-identify in terms of their sex role: domestic (female) skills are taught to young women as they mature. They are admonished to be submissive and subordinate to males. As children, boys and girls are rigidly sex-stereotyped into appropriate behavior.