Marriage among Somalis and the social context


Somalis or rather African context, marriage (guur in Somali) and founding of a family are not seen as an individual choice, but rather a social commitment.

The social pressure to conclude marriage is also strong, especially in regards to the first marriage (Nuune 2011). In the Somali tradition, marriage is concluded through negotiations and agreements between the families, but also upon the initiative of the young persons themselves.

Most Somalis relate to extended family networks where the distribution of roles and work is gender-specific and where the man remains to be the head of the family. Marriage is also the only legitimate context for sexual activity in the Somali community.

There is also a clear expectation of reproduction after the marriage has been entered into. From this perspective, first-time marriage with a woman passed fertile age is not common. Of course, significant age differences in the woman’s favour are not only unusual among Somalis, but also in most cultures. There are cases among Somalis where the woman is older than the man, but in these instances, it is likely that the circumstances are special – for example when the woman is very wealthy, or other factors that could compensate for the age difference in the woman’s favour.

Islamic principles of equality are given considerable weight, which means that there should be social and economic equality between the bride and groom.

Most families will not accept their children marrying below their social rank, and the capacity to support is a precondition for a husband to be able to get married.

The bride can be raised to the bridegroom’s social level by marriage, but a weaker social position of a groom will not readily be accepted (Dahl 1992). If there is inequality between the spouses, it should be in the favour of the man.

   Opinion article by Maryan hajir 

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