Marind-anim - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Sister exchange is the preferred form of Marriage, with first-cousin marriage prohibited. In many inland communities, the partners must be brother and sister, a rule which often requires the parents to adopt an exchange partner. Elsewhere, classificatory "siblingship" suffices and even that is not a firm rule, as the preferences of the future spouses are given a certain degree of consideration. First-marriage partners are usually age mates. Polygyny is rare. Traditionally, most marriages were long-lasting, which is surprising, given a number of Marind customs that might have undermined the stability of marriage. These customs include wives' involvement in ritualized group sex and husbands' involvement in homosexual relations with their sisters' adolescent sons.

Domestic Unit. Segregation of the sexes is strict and men may not stay for long in their wives' houses. However, the women's houses stand so close to the men's house that every word can be overheard on both sides.

Inheritance. Land, gardens, trees, and male ornaments and utensils are inherited patrilineally; female ornaments and goods are inherited matrilineally.

Socialization. Girls grow up by themselves, while boys are thought to need extra care. At a young age, boys go to sleep with their fathers in the men's house. As puberty approaches, they are no longer allowed to be in the village or on the beach during the day. They are entrusted to a mentor (the mother's brother) and sleep with him in his men's house. For three to four years, seclusion is severe until the boy passes to a higher age grade that allows for more fun. The passage is a family affair, marked by gift giving between the boy's parents and his mentor. Gift exchange also occurs when at age 18 or more the boy returns to his father's men's house to be married soon afterward. Women, who do most of the daily work and provide more of the daily food, have no say in matters of ritual, though they cooperate in minor rites. Girls are initiated into the Mayo fertility cult at the same age as the boys. Women are sometimes allowed to have ceremonial dances of their own, modeled on the magnificent ones performed by the men, and girls go through age grades like the boys, although the girls' age grades lack social significance.

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