Relative Status of Men and Women

Patrilineal descent reckoning and the practice of patrilo-cality assure the political subordination of women. Formal positions in the public arena are always assigned to men. This conforms well to the kinship composition of the residential unit since it is occupied by one or several patrilines. Decision-making and influence in subsistence and economy requires no authority, merely obedience to tradition. Collective work days, such as the cutting of a garden or the building of a house, may be called by the village chief who is always a man. However, his power is limited and if he encounters opposition he can be ignored. In family and community matters women have power by virtue of their obligation to tend to the upbringing of their children. It is they who are held responsible for the comportment and well-being of a child. This carries power, but not of the sort recognized as overtly political. It is important to recognize that there is no consolidation of power within one individual within a village.

Only men have rights to resources within their own villages by virtue of patrilineal descent. For example, men of the patriline may inherit certain fishing areas suitable to trap placement. Women may be said to own their own manioc plants. Males and females have similar access to plant resources as both depend upon the same rotating plots of land in which to plant their gardens. There is no ownership of these lands in the Western sense.

Women control or influence their choices of sexual partners and, along with their parents, marital partners. However, women are not the owners of their own children, who belong to the patriline of the husband. If a woman leaves her husband she may not take her children with her. If her husband dies and she chooses to remarry outside her husband's descent group, she may not bring her children with her.

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