Nyakyusa and Ngonde - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage ages once differed markedly for men and women, the former marrying at an average age of 25, and the latter near puberty, having been betrothed by their fathers even earlier. In the 1930s as many as 70 percent of married women lived in polygynous households, but as many as 70 percent of adult men were either unmarried or monogamous. There was "a premise of inequality" between men and women. Marriage was virilocal except in cases where a husband without cattle was incorporated into the household of his father-in-law by virtue of bride-service; children from such a match became part of the father-in-law's lineage. Transfer of cattle was therefore an essential part of contracting an honorable marriage; "kinship is cattle," it was said. Men with such resources translated them into polygynous marriage. Even so, in the interval between the 1930s and the present, women began marrying at a later age, and polygyny underwent a relative decline, particularly among Christians. Tanzanian national family law has promoted the autonomy of women with respect to marriage and property rights.

Domestic Unit. The basic unit is the nuclear family. In polygynous households each wife has her own house, or in former times a separate room in a long house; each household is allotted its own land, which the husband helps cultivate.

Inheritance. A brother traditionally inherited the farms and wives of a deceased sibling and raised children in the latter's name. Failing this, an elder son was the legitimate heir. Presently, father-to-son inheritance is the norm, another function of the privatization of economic life and the breakup of wider kinship units. Widows, rather than being inherited, now are likely to live in the household of a son unless they remarry.

Socialization. Young boys were expected mainly to socialize with age mates and eventually to live with them in age villages. Sharing within the group was a paramount value, and those who did not incurred much animosity, culminating in witchcraft accusations. Girls were taught the virtues of deference.

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