Maring - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriageability is determined according to both matrilateral and patrilateral relationships: one cannot marry a woman from one's mother's clan nor one from one's own subclan unit, but marriage between subclans of a single clan is permissible. Marriage with a local woman is preferred, for the husband acquires land rights from his wife's kin. Rights in women are held by the clan, through the person of the woman's eldest brother. This brother, who receives the greatest share of the bride-wealth, chooses an appropriate husband, and it is not unusual for a certain high degree of tension to exist between a man and his sister should his choice not meet with her approval. Sister exchange is the ideal, and it requires the lowest bride-wealth. A woman may, and often does, pick her own husband, but such alliances must be regularized by the payment of bride-wealth to her kin. Should this payment not be quickly forthcoming, Maring traditionally resolved the situation by going to war against the husband and his kin. Today such problems are brought to court, but this solution is rarely satisfactory as the courts, reflecting a Western tendency to prefer the rights of the individual over those of the group, tend to find against the errant sister's kin. Maring marriage itself is not ritually marked, beyond an initial token payment of bride-wealth and the fact that the woman takes up residence in her new husband's mother's house. Eventually her husband will build her a house of her own, usually around the time of the birth of their first child, and it is also at this time that the husband generally fulfills the remainder of his bride-wealth commitment. Until the birth of children and this payment of major bride-wealth, divorce is simple and rather common. Marriage is usually monogamous, though polygyny is considered ideal. However, bride-price considerations make it difficult for men to afford acquiring more than one wife.

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit consists of a man, his wife, and their children. This arrangement is not, however, a residential group, as men live in their separate houses (or separate parts of the "modern" dwelling structures) , and a woman's house may shelter some of her female kin at times. The core unit within the family is the gardening pair, but a gardening pair may also be composed of a man and one of his own female kin, as noted earlier.

Inheritance. Men inherit rights in land patrilineally, while individual, movable property is passed on at the discretion of the owner or the owner's survivors.

Socialization. Young children are kept with their mothers, and as they become old enough to help out they participate in gathering activities with her. A daughter remains with her mother until marriage; she learns the necessary skills and appropriate behaviors of a woman through instruction and observation. Boys around the age of 8 undergo initiation and then move into the men's house of their fathers. It is largely through observation of and association with the adult males of his patriline that a boy acquires adult knowledge.

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