Pedi - Marriage and Family



Marriage and Domestic Unit. Residence after marriage was traditionally patrilocal. Polygyny was practiced mostly by people of higher, especially chiefly, status. The preferred marriage partner was a close or classificatory cousin (especially, for a man, a mother's brother's daughter), but this preference was most often realized in the case of ruling or chiefly families: practiced by the ruling dynasty, during its period of dominance, it represented a system of political integration and control (see "History and Cultural Relations"). The preference for cousin marriage was based on an idea that the two sets of prospective in-laws were closely connected even before the event of marriage, and with an ideology of sibling linkage—the bohadi (bride-wealth) procured for a daughter's marriage would in turn procure her brother's bride, and he would repay his sister by offering a daughter to her son in marriage. Cousin marriage is still practiced, but is far less frequent than before. Polygyny is infrequent, many marriages end in divorce or separation, and a large number of young women remain single and raise their children in small (and often very poor) female-headed households. But new forms of domestic cooperation have come into being, often between brothers and sisters, or matrilineally linked relatives.

Inheritance. Previously, the oldest son of a household within a polygynous family would inherit the house and property of his mother, including its cattle, and was supposed to act as custodian of these goods for the benefit of the household's other children. With the decline of cattle keeping and the sharp decrease in the availability of land, there has been a switch to a system of lastborn inheritance, primarily of land (see "Land Tenure").

Socialization. The stages of the life cycle for both sexes were differentiated by important rituals. Boys spent their youth looking after cattle at remote outposts, in the company of peers and older youths. Circumcision and initiation at koma (initiation school), which was held about once every five years, socialized youths into groups of cohorts or regiments bearing the leader's name, whose members then maintained lifelong loyalty to each other and often traveled together to find work on the farms or in the mines. Girls attended their own koma and were initiated into their own regiments, usually two years after the boys' koma. Initiation is still practiced; it provides a considerable income to the chiefs, who license it for a fee or, in the late twentieth century, to private entrepreneurs who have established initiation schools beyond the chiefs' jurisdictions.


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