Herero - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Today ethnic endogamy is giving way to intertribal marriage, and children of such unions suffer no social stigma. A Herero man may also keep concubines, women to whom he is not formally married, who live either in his homestead or in their natal homesteads. The children of such a union belong to the man's patrisib if he pays child-wealth to the mother's father, or to the mother's patrisib if he does not. Wives live in their husbands' homesteads, and a married couple usually lives in the man's father's homestead, although sometimes poor matrilineal relatives may also be found in a homestead. Because formal marriages are not validated by civil ceremony as opposed to tribal ritual, divorce is similarly conferred by the Botswana courts and is not difficult to obtain.

Domestic Unit. The primary domestic unit is the individual household within a homestead, in which a woman and her children reside. In a monogamous marriage, the husband lives in the same house; in a polygynous union, the man has no house of his own, but rotates among those of his wives.

Inheritance. In former times, when "sacred" cattle were distinguished from "secular" cattle, the former were inherited patrilineally, first from elder brother to younger and then from father to son, and the latter were inherited matrilineally from mother's brother to sister's son. Today, under the influence of Botswana's legal system, inheritance of all property is largely from parent to child.

Socialization. Care of children is chiefly a female responsibility. Girls remain with their mothers, often looking after younger siblings, until they are married and move away. Boys assist with chores around the homestead under the direction of any resident adult, but most of their day is spent in leisurely play. Girls are considered marriageable at about age 16, and premarital sex is permitted among young people of marriageable age. Most Herero children acquire only enough formal schooling to learn basic reading and writing.

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