Courtship and Marriage

A man who wishes to marry a girl speaks to her father, often when she is still a young child. If both families

(including the ancestors) are in agreement, the accord is finalized by offerings of palm wine. From then on, the girl is considered betrothed; her father and her future husband are bayotan, in-laws. Over a period of up to 12 years, the future husband performs brideservice; that is, he works for his father-in-law several days per year in cultivation, house construction, fence building, or other similar tasks. When the girl is of marriageable age, that is, after she has finished her age-set initiation, a wedding ceremony (benim) is held and the bride moves into her husband's house. Since the wedding ceremony is expensive—it includes feeding and entertaining many guests for several days—it is often skipped or at least postponed for several years until enough money is saved to be able to afford it.

A man and women can also "marry" simply by moving in with each other, without brideservice or wedding ceremony. In this case, they are usually close in age, having met during age-set initiation and become sweethearts, or it is the second marriage for one or both of them. These are love marriages.

The Manjako words for "husband" (ayin) and "wife" (aar) are used regardless of whether brideservice or a wedding ceremony has taken place. The only difference between them seems to be the woman's freedom to walk out of the marriage. If a woman wishes to divorce a husband who has performed brideservice, she must reimburse him monetarily and/or live with him long enough to bear him a child. It is often the case that a girl refuses to marry the husband chosen by her father and who has performed brideservice for her. "Divorce" then occurs before marriage; that is, the betrothed girl "pays off" the man who is performing brideservice for her even before the marriage is consummated. Furthermore, if a husband who has performed brideservice dies, his wife is "inherited" by his successor, usually a brother or a maternal nephew. If a woman does not wish to marry her deceased husband's brother, she must reimburse him as she would her husband.

Ideally, Manjako marriages are polygamous. Though many men have only one wife, most have at least two at some time in their lives, and often many more. The first wife has authority over other wives, and a wise husband consults his first wife before taking other wives. Since older men often marry young brides, many women become widows; traditionally, widows are "inherited" by their dead husband's successor. Divorce and remarriage are very common. One survey showed that women had almost as many husbands in their lives as men had wives, though the women were not married to all their husbands simultaneously.

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