Husband Wife Relationship

Husbands have jural authority over wives, including the right of corporal punishment. It is an offense for a woman to contradict her husband publicly, and it is wrong for a woman to "try to be bigger than" her husband. Wives must ask their husbands' permission for many activities, such as traveling. However, women's informal influence is far greater than this public image might imply. Many, possibly most, husbands confer with their wives about economic decisions and decisions concerning issues such as children's education and marriages. Relations between spouses are normally harmonious. If a woman is very dissatisfied with her marriage, she may leave her husband and live elsewhere, but divorce and remarriage are not possible. Children belong to the husband's lineage and their inheritance rights lie there. Older children stay with the father if the mother leaves. Younger children go with her, but are supposed to be sent back when they are old enough. The separated wife's rights in her husband's homestead and property are secure, and there are examples of older sons bringing their mothers home to live in the family compound following the father's death.

Some tasks in the division of labor are interchangeable, but some wives' tasks (e.g., cooking) are never done by husbands. Men often eat with age mates, served by the wife of one of the men. Women and children eat separately. Wives often sleep with children, and separately from husbands. Husbands and wives spend some, but limited amounts of, leisure time together.

The relation between cowives is expected to be somewhat hostile, since they are in competition for resources. It is said to be best if husbands arrange for their wives to live on separate farms and travel between them. Yet examples of close relationships between cowives and widows of the same husband also exist.

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