Husband Wife Relationship

The rule is simple: a husband rules his wife. If she is disobedient or behaves improperly (in his view), he may punish her. A man may beat his wife—though he should not seriously injure her—in order to teach her proper behavior. If he comes home late, he expects his wife to get up and cook him a meal and have sex with him, even if he is drunk and disgusting. He cannot cook his own meal, for it is shameful for a man to cook when a female (even a small girl) is present. Though women often do men's work, especially in a husband's absence, men rarely do women's work.

Marital relationships run the gamut from hostile and abusive to companionable and cooperative. The former may involve marital rape and frequent beatings; the latter may even see a husband going into the wife's kitchen (usually off-base for men) to discuss something with his wife or make a mutual decision.

Spouses usually sleep together, though a polygamist sleeps with each wife in turn if he is treating his wives fairly. He should also give equal presents to his wives, eat each wife's food, and pay school fees for the children of all his wives. The first wife a man marries is his senior wife; she is the manager of junior wives. Relationships among cowives may be congenial and cooperative, or antagonistic and hostile; whichever, their atmosphere pervades the homestead. Though the cultural myth is that cowives are always jealous and quarreling, in fact many get along well and cooperate with each other. Widowed cowives can be extremely supportive of each other. Sometimes cowives unite against the husband in a campaign to get him to do something they want, a situation men dislike intensely (no doubt because they do not feel in control).

Under customary law, divorce usually requires nothing more than for a wife to leave the homestead, though her family may try to persuade her—or even force her— to go back so they do not have to return bridewealth. In a sense a woman's first marriage is never dissolved, even if she marries someone else. When she dies, even many years later, the first husband or his heirs will be expected to bury her on his land. If it is the man who wants a wife to leave, and she is reluctant, he will pressure her to go, perhaps by ignoring her, or a hostile cowife can make life very unpleasant for her. Children belong to the father's clan; if very young, they may accompany their mother when she leaves, but will be returned to the father when they are older. In any case, few men are willing to have another man's children in their home, so if a woman remarries, she is unlikely to find a welcome for her children. If the marriage occurred in a civil ceremony, a court case is necessary for divorce; if it is a church marriage, then church law applies.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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