Pokot - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is underwritten by gift giving, with the flow of gifts moving from the groom and his family to the bride and her family, often over a period of years. The amount and the types of gifts are agreed upon before the bride moves to her husband's home. The bride's family often receives a combination of livestock, goods, and cash, and the bride receives milk cows and rights to land.

Divorce owing to incompatibility or to lack of children is not uncommon in the early years of a marriage, but, after the birth of children, divorce is rare. The bond between a husband and wife and their respective families and clans endures for three to four generations, after which time the relationship is said to "disappear," and marriages may again take place between the two groups. A man may have more than one wife, but polygyny is uncommon among men under 40 years of age.

Domestic Unit. A homestead is composed of one or more buildings that provide housing, cooking, and storage for a man and his wife (or wives) and children; co-wives have separate houses. Where cultivable land is inherited (primarily in the highlands), married sons tend to live near their fathers.

Inheritance. A young adult woman is promised stock by her family after her initiation and at the time of her marriage, but generally she asks for and receives only one gift of stock from her family. A woman acquires additional stock, along with rights to land, from her husband and her mother-in-law; she transmits this property to her children and her daughters-in-law. Young men usually receive stock from their fathers and close agnates after initiation, but a man does not obtain full ownership of the stock he inherits until he marries and establishes his own homestead. In the highlands, a man receives full control of a portion of the family's land after he marries.

Socialization. Families are responsible for supporting their children, but socialization per se is a communitywide affair. The role of the community in teaching children ethical rules and responsible behavior is emphasized during initiation, the most important rite of passage for most Pokot. Initiation consists of a series of neighborhood-based ceremonies organized by adult men and women who, by turns, teach, encourage, remonstrate, cook for, and laud the initiates during and after their ordeals (circumcision for boys; clitoridectomy for girls). The work of initiation is organized by gender, with women taking primary responsibility for girlsI initiations, and men for boysI initiations.

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