Abelam - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Lineages are said to be exogamous and Marriages within them are frowned upon. Marriages take place within a village. In some parts of Maprik region endogamy within the ceremonial moieties ( ara ) prevail in order to prevent competition between father and son-in-law. Sister Exchange is a preferred form of marriage. In general, considerable freedom of choice is acknowledged to women in cases where the parents had not arranged intermarriage of their children. In former days marriage took place soon after first menstruation. In marriage transactions shell rings (nowadays supplemented by money) play an important role. Marriage payments can be substituted by giving at least one child back to the wife's clan. Sometimes, if no marriage payment at all is given, a man with his family has to live on his father-in-law's land and assist him, as a member of that household, in all communal subsistence activities such as clearing brush, planting, and harvesting. Divorce is not uncommon and Usually occurs with the wife's return to her own family; in such cases the bride-wealth is returned by her kin or by her new husband upon remarriage.

Domestic Unit. The smallest domestic unit consists of a man with one or more wives and their children if they all live in the same hamlet. But for most activities in the gardens, brothers and their wives cooperate, often assisted by brothers-in-law. Within a common garden owned mostly by male relatives of a lineage, each family has its own plot. Each woman owns her own pigs and chickens and plans her daily work independently from others. She has to be asked permission if her husband wants to sell one of her pigs. Even in polygynous households, cooking is done by each woman separately.

Inheritance. Ideally, inheritance is patrilineally organized. This concerns mainly landownership and clan membership though there are many exceptions which give rise to disputes.

Socialization. The pattern of adult roles is transmitted to children at a very early age through their being actively motivated to participate in everyday activities. If left back in the village, they are put under the supervision of older children who form playing groups. At the same time they are entrusted with social responsibility. Through various stages of initiation, boys and young men attain manhood, which is connected with ritual knowledge. The most prominent ritual event in a girl's life is the first-menstruation ceremony, which is acted out communally by all women of a village.

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