Courtship and Marriage

Opportunities for courting are quite restricted because of the gender-segregated patterns of socializing described above. Boy-girl "dates" do not happen, and young people have to find covert opportunities to make contact. Traditionally this happened at night during or after performances, rituals, and festivals, or, more risky, in the kebun (gardens or crops). While boys have great freedom, and are really expected to be sexually experienced at marriage, girls should be secluded or accompanied at all times. This protocol encourages duplicity. Athough premarital sexual relationships are probably common, it is also the case that some claimed "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" relationships amount to no more than carrying a passport photo in a wallet. While fathers, especially, can act as puritanical guardians of their daughters' virtue, they tend to discourage daughters from marrying late, fearing the greater risks of premarital pregnancy the longer the wait.

Traditionally, marriages were arranged by families or conducted by elopement. The latter allowed young people to skirt parental and/or community disapproval, and also allowed persistent young men to prevail over unwilling brides-to-be. Nowadays probably most marriages are not arranged, but the conjugal alliance is still very much a partnership of families as well as a working partnership of individuals. Of course, triwangsa marriages were usually strategic alliances informed by considerations of interstate politics, economic relations, comparative status, and so on. Parental approval is still essential. Elopement remains fairly common, and fits well with contemporary Western and Indonesian notions of cinta (love).

Age at marriage seems to have been quite high by Indonesian standards and is rising. In 1964, women's age at marriage was 21.7 years; by 1985 it was 22.3 years (Hull & Jones, 1994, p. 137).

Endogamy is the desired pattern. The closest and most desirable marriage for a man is to marry the daughter of his father's brother; this keeps the patriline pure, the family strong and united, and minimizes problems of inheritance, house-yard division, and so on. However, there is also the idea that this can be a tenget (hot) marriage because of this very closeness. Failing this, marriage within the house-yard, or further patrilineage, is desired—the bride will not have to take leave of her ancestors and on leaving her natal house-yard she has relatives looking out for her. In some areas, the percentage of patrilineage-endogamous marriages can be up to 60%; certainly there are banjar which consist entirely of one patrilineage and high levels of endogamy in those cases are assured. However, among commoners, the endogamy ideal is not so frequent and most women marry out of their patrilineal descent group.

Polygyny is quite common among wealthy and especially high-caste (triwangsa) men, though the Indonesian state strongly encourages monogamy. One study found that 5% of marriages in North Bali were polygynous, but in socially conservative areas with a preponderance of higher castes, polygynous marriages can constitute a quarter of marriages. A polygynous marriage, even with an older man, is considered preferable to spinsterhood. Women may not have more than one husband.

Intercaste marriages are generally discouraged, and there is a strict prohibition upon high-caste women marrying "down" (i.e., to a lower-caste man). Such a marriage would upset the hierarchy of male: female, high: low. If plans for such a marriage were known about, the girl's family would take passionate, often violent, preemptive action to try to avert the catastrophe. A high-caste woman who makes a hypogamous marriage is cast out from her family (makutang) and is socially and ritually "dead" to them. In times past, the couple could be killed (Geertz & Geertz, 1975, p. 137).

Newly married women move into their husband's house-yard, coresiding with parents-in-law and brothers-in-law and their families. Until they produce a baby, especially a son, brides are in a rather weak and powerless position. The new wife is expected by her mother-in-law to take over the greater part of the housework, cooking, shopping, and laundry, so for many brides, marriage means work. Mothers-in-law often perform much of the ritual work of the house compound, especially the making of offerings. Thus there is considerable pressure on new brides to become pregnant quickly.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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