Kachin Marriage and Family
Marriage ceremony The Kachin marry outside their clan or village. The most preferable match for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, or a match that brings two lineages together in an alliance. In many cases if such a match is not made fines have to be paid to the mother’s brother. Traditionally, after a marriage occurs the wife returns to live with her family until the first child is born.
Young people are quite free to flirt and date. Premarital sex is common. Many villages have a “public house” were adolescents can go and have sex. Young people have traditionally gathered here for singing, recitation of love poetry and lovemaking. Couples involved in trysts were not required to get married but a girl’s family could get fined if the girl got pregnant.
Marriages however are more serious and usually arranged. The groom’s family is required to pay a bride price, usually in the form of buffalo, cattle, horses, gongs and/or palajing (a kind of silk or nylon scarf). The amount is determined by the number of relatives the bride has. In return, the bride’s family gives a gift to the son, often a spear, knife or sword, and preferably a gun worth half the value of the bride price. Bride price negotiations can be complex and often involves go-between. Sometimes the bride price is paid out over several years. If the groom’s family can not come up with the full amount, the groom may spend several years doing bride service.
Types of Kachin Marriages
The are four ways a Kachin man takes a wife: 1) wife stealing, a popular method involving the staged theft of the bride and consent by both families to the marriage; 2) wife engaging, in which couple enter an arranged marriage when they are young and get married when they are older; 3) wife snatching, in which a man abducts a girl who refuses his love and marries her; and 4) wife seizing, in which a man has relations with another man’s wife or fiancé and marries her.
Polygyny is rare but occurs. Some chiefs have multiple wives. Sometimes the brother of a deceased man takes the dead man’s wife as his own. Divorce is uncommon but when it does occur the bride usually has to pay back the bride price.
Most couples live with the groom’s family but it is not that uncommon for couples to move in with the bride’s parents. The youngest son is expected to live with the parents and take care of them in old age. In return he inherit the family’s property. Sons and daughters are treated equally. Kachin parents never beat their children. Children are encouraged to attend Chinese school but most drop out by the time they attend middle school.