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Courtship and Marriage

According to a number of interviews, relationships between young men and women may need to be conducted in secret, until they are ready for marriage. Sex appears to be a taboo subject. Normally women's virginity is very highly valued, with the whole family being shamed if she is not a virgin at marriage.

To enforce this value, female circumcision is still practiced by some groups, although there have been successful attempts in different areas to remove the practice. Divorce is possible, although in both religions, resolution by family and elders would be attempted before going through the legal system. Inter-religious marriage is not usually tolerated.

In the past, arranged marriages were common. While this is not usually practiced now, it is important to marry someone the family approves of. In rural areas, christian marriages traditionally are arranged between families with a great deal of negation and balancing of gifts.

All things are agreed before a marriage, for the security of both parties who have equal rights. Rural women, in particular, tend to marry at a young age and may be six to ten years younger than their husbands.

Among the Muslim communities, husbands may have more than one wife and large numbers of children are traditionally considered to be a sign of status. In Muslim marriages in the east of Ethiopia women own nothing and do not have protection of their rights, whereas in Muslim marriage in the north, women are considered equal; so the position of women is a matter of culture as well as religion. If the husbund of a Muslim woman dies, it is the responsibility of the husband's brother to take care of the wife and family. He may be required to marry her.


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