Rukuba - Marriage and Family

Marriage. For the purposes of marriage, the Rukuba population, as a whole, is divided into two exogamous moieties. According to the ideational model, each village may belong to either moiety, and there are approximately the same number of villages in each exogamous moiety. Each village is also exogamous, and every girl from one moiety must, by definition, marry into the other. For premarital relations, however, each village was endogamous; every young girl had, prior to marriage, premarital relations with young men from other patrilines of the same village. No offspring could be borne of such unions; unwanted pregnancies were terminated by abortion. A girl could have premarital relations with only one man at a time, following the payment of a sort of "lover price." The relationship had to last at least six months, but it could continue for a longer period. A girl could have several of these unions in succession before she married out, around the age of 20. This system of premarital relations led, until its termination in the 1950s, to a unique form of preferential marriage: the eldest girl of a set of uterine sisters was betrothed to the son of her mother's last lover. Subsequent sisters were also engaged to boys from their mother's natal village, the whole operation being a delayed exchange: all the daughters of a woman had to be married in their mother's natal village. This practice occurred in conjunction with another type of marriage. As soon as a girl was betrothed to her preferential mate, any man from other villages of the girl's opposite moiety could court her and she could choose one among them to become her first husband. Only 9 percent of the women had their preferential suitor as future husband. The remaining majority married first the man they had selected by free choice. The woman stayed with him for a month or two and was then escorted to the preferential suitor. The stay with him of one month was compulsory, after which the girl, now a spouse, could either remain with him or go back to the first, deserted husband. After a year, a woman could choose to remain with the husband with whom she stayed, to join the husband she previously deserted (preferential or free choice), or to select a new husband from the right moiety. All these marriages remained valid and a woman had the right to return to any of her husbands. Nowadays the woman spends the whole year with her free-choice husband and can remain with him if she likes or marry another husband. The minimal stay with a husband is a year, but a woman can stay as long as she wishes. There is no bride-wealth refund because the woman is still considered married to all her husbands, although she cohabits with only one at a time. In case of contested paternity rights, the child belongs to the husband the woman names as the father. When a woman with one child under 5 years of age moves from one husband to another, the new husband has to take care of the child, who will be sent back to his or her true father after the age of 5 to 6 years. A husband can have several wives living elsewhere, but he can also have several living with him at the same time. The proportion of men having two wives or more living together with him is only 28 percent of married men, the rest having only one. Many husbands remain wifeless while waiting for one of their wives to come back or trying to marry a new one.

Domestic Unit. The typical family household consists of a walled compound of round mud huts. The entrance, which is the kitchen and/or pounding house, is used by all the women of the compound. The owner of the house has his own room; each wife has hers as well, as do the nubile daughters. Married sons establish similar compounds very close to the parental house, one married son remaining very often within the paternal enclosure. Square huts are also to be found, but corrugated iron roofs are exceptional.

Inheritance. Inheritance passes from father to sons and is divided equally. If there are no sons, the next agnate in line—brother or paternal cousin—will inherit the most important property: land, goats, hoes, and debts, if any.

Socialization. Boys undergo a compulsory three-stage initiation following a complex calendar encompassing all the villages in turn. The first stage is normally Icugo, a ritual that initiates and terminates an entire ten to twelve years' initiation cycle. The second state is izaru, the circumcision ceremony that every boy attends before he is 7. Nowadays, however, the actual circumcision is practiced soon after birth. The third state, aso, makes the boy ritually adult before he is 12. He is then taught the principal rules regarding marriage and adultery. No initiation pertains to girls, although they play a symbolic role in boys' initiation ceremonies.

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