Luyia - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditional Abaluyia marriage is patrilocal. Polygyny rates vary among the subnations, and bride-wealth, consisting of animals and money, is usually exchanged. Many types of exchange occurred during the marriage process, and male elders conducted the negotiations. Wives were chosen for their good character and the ability to work hard. Men were also chosen for these qualities, as well as soberness and ability to pay bride-wealth. After marriage, co-wives usually had separate dwellings but would often cook together. New wives were not permitted to cook in their own houses until their own cooking stones were set up in a brief ceremony. This was often after the birth of one or several children. Childlessness was usually blamed on the woman. In some subnations, a woman whose husband died lived in a state of ritual impurity until she was inherited by the dead husband's brother. Divorce may or may not have involved return of bride-wealth cattle. In the case of divorce or serious witchcraft accusations, the woman could return to her natal home without her children, who remained with their fathers.

Abaluyia women in contemporary Kenya choose among a variety of marriage options, including the traditional bride-wealth system, Christian marriage with or without bride-wealth, elopement, and single parenthood. Women with more education may command a higher bride-wealth. Bride-wealth in Bungoma remains stable, but in Maragoli and some other regions, bride-wealth may be declining or disappearing. Domestic Unit. A married man heads one or more households. A typical household consists of a husband, a wife, and their children. Other family members may join these households, including the wife's sisters, the husband's other children, and foster children. Since mature relatives of adjacent generations do not sleep in the same house, grandmothers and older children often occupy adjacent houses; however, all usually eat from the same pot. These rules have not changed much, although many rural households are now headed by women because of long-term male wage-labor migration. Inheritance. Land is inherited patrilineally (see "Land Tenure").

Socialization. Abaluyia communities are characterized by a high degree of sibling involvement in caretaking, under the general supervision of the mothers and grandmothers in the homestead. Although mothers play a primary role in child rearing, small children and infants may be left with older siblings while their mothers do other work. Although fathers play a minimal role, they are often the ones who take children for medical care. Grandparents and grandchildren have close relationships. Until the mid-to late twentieth century, girls learned about marriage and sexuality from their grandmothers. In the Abaluyia subnations that circumcise, boys are admonished by male elders and taught to endure the pain of circumcision without flinching, a sign that they have the strength of character to endure other hardships they may face. Contemporary Abaluyia grandparents play an even greater role in child rearing because they are thrust more and more into foster-parent roles.

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