Courtship and Marriage

Formerly, parents (the father alone or in consultation with his wife) chose spouses for their children. For daughters they looked for a responsible strong man from a respected family; he could be an older man with other wives.

For sons they sought a girl of childbearing age who was hardworking and obedient. Negotiations were conducted between the families, bridewealth was paid (though perhaps only part of it to start with), and various ceremonies were carried out, culminating in a procession to convey the bride to her new home. Girls married young, sometimes even as small children, and often against their will, while men were likely to be in their twenties or even thirties at their first marriage. Often the bride and groom did not meet until the wedding. Once the protracted wedding ceremonies ended and the bride was left without her supportive bridesmaids in her new husband's home, it was a difficult and often lonely time for her as a stranger in her husband's home, socially inferior to almost everyone else, and expected to work hard for her mother-in-law.

Today young people are likely to choose their own partners, with sexual attraction and love playing a strong role and premarital sex likely. They may elope or the young woman may just move into her husband's house. If the family accepts her presence, the couple are considered to be married, though bridewealth is likely to be negotiated at some point and the birth of children makes the relationship stronger. With the traditional ceremonies no longer being performed, the couple may choose to have a church wedding or a civil wedding before a magistrate.

In the past marriage was universal, but today some women are choosing single parenthood over marriage. Women who are widowed (and most women are at least by the time they reach their sixties) would ordinarily be "inherited" by a male of the late husband's family. With younger women, such a marriage might become a "real" marriage; with women past childbearing it might involve little more than the purification rituals. Today, however, some widows are rejecting widow inheritance. Sometimes younger women choose their second husband themselves, and some older women (especially older women who are "saved," i.e., born-again Christians) are rejecting remarriage altogether and with it the possibility of domination by a new husband.

It is unusual to find a man, even a very old man, without a wife, since wives tend to be younger (sometimes much younger) than husbands and a polygamously married man will not be left without a wife even if one of them dies. In any case, a man (widowed or not) is free to marry when he wishes, constrained chiefly by his ability to pay bridewealth and (especially if he is old) attract a woman willing to marry him.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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