Iraqw - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Polygyny is accepted, but very few men have more than one wife in Iraqw society. Generally, marriages are arranged by fathers rather than the couple themselves. The wedding involves a huge feast at which the bridegroom's family gives the bride a cow, a goat, a sheep, and a bottle of honey as bride-price to the bride's father. Bride-price is only returned to the groom if there is a divorce. Residence after marriage is neolocal. The Iraqw also practice levirate; children born to a woman after her husband's death are considered to belong to the deceased man. Ghost marriage, whereby women are married to the name of a deceased man and any children she has belong to that name, is also practiced.

Domestic Unit. The domestic household is the primary economic unit. Each household has its own fields and livestock. If a man has more than one wife, separate houses may be built for each.

Inheritance. The Iraqw do not follow strict rules of inheritance. In theory, the wife inherits all of the property of her husband and passes it on to her sons. In general, the youngest son inherits the farmland and most of the property; however, this transfer of the rights to land to a son must be approved by the village elders (Thornton 1980).

Socialization. Circumcision is a large, collective ritual performed on children ranging from 3 to 10 years old. Beer is brewed for the occasion, and gifts are presented to the initiates from relatives and friends. After boys are circumcised, they become official members of a youth group ( masomba ) and are expected to take on greater responsibilities with regard to work and social obligations. A male will remain in the group until he is around 40, when he is considered an elder, or barise. Until the 1930s, when the rites were abolished by the colonially appointed chief, girls were circumcised in the marmo ritual. More elaborate than male circumcision, this rite involved ritual seclusion for the girls, during which they were instructed in sexual lore and their duties as a wife. Following seclusion, they were circumcised and then permitted to marry.


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