Relative Status of Men and Women

Male dominance pervades rural Aymara society. Men dominate in the economic, political, and religious spheres both within the household and in the community and its relations with the outside world. Rural men are more fluent in Spanish and better educated, averaging more than twice as many years in school as women. Even when inheritance for both genders and moderate premarital sexual freedom for both are taken into account, the balance of cultural custom still seems to favor men.

The force of male dominance is felt most strongly by married women. Women may express their opinions to their husbands about household economic matters, but ultimately defer to a man's choices. Wife-beating is nearly universal in rural areas, but varies in intensity depending on a couple's relationship. Women often say that they were beaten more by their husbands as young wives "for not obeying" or for not having cooked food ready at whatever time he arrived home. They may say that their husbands rarely beat them, except when they have been drinking. The suffering ethic of Aymara women dictates that the best course a woman can take in an abusive marriage is to stick it out and keep her family together. The emotional and economic risks of running away, giving up their married status and (often) leaving their children, are so great that few women attempt it.

Early in the marriage process, a young woman may choose to leave an excessively abusive husband and return home to her parents without shame, even with a child. She may marry someone else or remain a single mother in a semi-independent relationship with her parents. Similarly, widows have the choice of whether to remarry, and very few choose to do so for fear of mistreatment of themselves or their children. They may be poor and subject to some sexual harassment, but they are free to function as heads of household more or less equally with their male peers.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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