Gayo - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The village and the supravillage kin categories are exogamous. Although marriage between second cousins is permitted, most Gayo consider a third-cousin relation to be the proper minimal distance. Polygynous marriages, though permitted, are rare. In rural areas most marriages are between couples who already were acquainted. The two major marriage forms followed in the 1980s were: (1) virilocal marriages with bride-wealth and a counterpayment of bride goods that established a lasting exchange relation between two kin categories, and (2) uxorilocal marriages with little or no payment that obliged the couple to support the wife's family. Although the choice of the couple's village of domicile was fixed by the marriage form, nearly all virilocally married couples and many uxorilocally married couples left the parents' household after an initial period of residence. As the clearing of new lands for cash cropping grew more attractive in the 1970s, more marriages were contracted without specifying domicile. Divorce once meant that the party who had married into a village left with no property, but since the legal reforms and economic changes that began in the 1960s, most divorcing couples divide common property equally.

Domestic Unit. Households vary in size from single persons to three-generation extended families. Households generally eat together, but adolescent boys often sleep as a group in the village prayer house. The household is the basic unit of production and consumption, and has a common household budget.

Inheritance. Prior to independence (1945) households passed on property to children who remained in the village after marriage, and favored the child who had cared for the aged parents. In the 1960s individuals began to petition the newly established Islamic court to redivide estates along the lines of Islamic property law. The success of these requests, and broader changes in religious education, led many Gayo, particularly those living in and around Takèngën, to apply Islamic law in dividing their own estates.

Socialization. Parents, resident grandparents, and siblings raise children. Care givers emphasize the importance of a sense of shame ( kemèl ) and respect for others according to kin relation. Physical punishment is rare.

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