Gender Related Social Groups

Certain social institutions, such as mahalla committees, are structured around men. The mahalla or neighborhood became a unit of local government during the Soviet period and has increased its functions since independence. The mahalla committee is made up of respected, usually elderly, neighborhood men led by a "white-beard," oqsoqol or muisafid. The committee makes decisions concerning housing, welfare, and the provision of some social services in the neighborhood. Occasionally mahalla committees include women; more often women are consulted in some decisions.

The neighborhood itself is a social institution, with participation in various activities, from local clean-up to life cycle events, expected from those who live there. When a wedding takes place, the mahalla committee provides tables, chairs, and dishes for the feast. Each family should send at least one representative to a neighborhood wedding with men more obligated in this regard than women. Failure to participate diminishes respect and status.

Most marriages are virilocal. Newlyweds live with the husband's parents in either a courtyard house or an apartment. If parents do not have space for a son's family in their home, they are expected to purchase other housing for the couple as their contribution to the expenses of marriage, while the bride's parents may pay for interior furnishings. Marriage to someone from one's village or city is preferred; brides usually maintain substantial contact with their families after marriage.

Both men and women belong to a particular social circle of peers. Girls often form friendship circles with cousins and schoolmates. Boys form similar groups. Often these groups of female friends, dugona, or male friends, jura, last into adulthood. Adults in such groups hold a monthly gathering for conversation, gap. The gap gathering fulfills numerous social functions; some use it for religious instruction, most for feasting, and many for investment. Gap members contribute money to their host, and each member hosts in succession. Members use this money for business purposes, dowry, or other personal expenses.

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