Chin - Marriage and Family



Marriage. With the exception mainly of the Mizo (Lushai), the Chin peoples practice asymmetrical alliance marriage. There is no obligation to marry into a lineage to which one is already allied; indeed, save in the demographically relict Kuki groups of Manipur, diversification of Marriage connections is a leading strategic principle. But it is proscribed under severe penalties—occasionally amounting to temporary exile from the community—to reverse the direction of marriage alliance (e.g., to marry a woman from a wife-taking lineage). With the Mizo the rapidity of segmentation means that affinal alliances lapse almost as soon as they are formed, and so there can be no question of their reversal. Also, inasmuch as wife givers are at least ritually dominant over wife takers, it is often necessary to cement and renew an alliance by further marriages, both because a particular wife-giving lineage may provide a useful umbrella of wealth and power and because this lineage may be unwilling to let a profitable alliance lapse (which it will after three or four generations) ; also, it may insist on imposing more wives with a view to taking in more marriage dues. Divorce, if the woman is said to be at fault, is cause for an attempt to recover all or much of the bride-price, either from her natal family or, if she has run off with another, from her seducer. Divorce of a woman for no good cause is difficult because it constitutes an implicit offense against the wife givers.


Inheritance. Houses, land, and other major property, as well as succession to office (priestly or chiefly), pass from Father to son. Sometimes they pass by primogeniture, sometimes by ultimogeniture, and sometimes by a combination of the two (e.g., house and household goods to the younger son, office and movable estate to the older). These matters vary even from lineage to lineage. Certain classes of property that a woman brings from her natal household to her marriage (chiefly valuable jewelry and the like) pass to one of her daughters upon either the marriage of the daughter or the death of the mother. Even noninheriting sons have some right to expect their father to settle on them a portion of his estate while he is still alive, when those sons are about to establish households of their own. It is commonly thought that a noninheriting son of a chief or other powerful man is likely to become socially disaffected, footloose, volatile, and unreliable, and this sort of person is called, in Lai Chin, mihrawkhrawlh, "one who is constantly looking for the main chance."


Socialization. Both parents take care of infants, as do elder siblings of either sex; it is not rare to see even a distinguished chief with a baby in a blanket on his back or a child crawling all over him, and a child carrying a baby carrying an even smaller infant is not an unknown sight. Mothers slap and scold children even to age of about 10 or 12, but the power of the father, at least over sons, is his power to withhold support and settlement. Young boys are encouraged to throw tantrums so that they may grow up a bit wild and willful. Children are weaned when the demands of the next infant are too great, or by 18 months of age. While there is a tendency for tensions between fathers and sons to arise as sons come of age and need financial independence, the emotional bonds between parents and children in general are often deep and lasting, and those between daughters and their mothers are especially poignant: if a woman becomes drunk she often weeps, and it is said then that she is "thinking of her mother."


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