Marriage and Family System among Bench People in South Western Ethiopia

Ausarbeitung, 2019

15 Seiten


Table of Contents

1.1. Background of the Study
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Objectives of the study
1.4. Research Questions
1.5. Scope of the Study
1.6. Significance of the Study

2.1. General Overview of marriage
2.2. General overview of family

3.1. The Research Design
3.2. Research Approach
3.3. The Study Area
3.4. Population of the Study
3.5. Data Sources
3.6. Tools of Data Collection
3.7. Ethical considerations
3.8. Data analysis and interpretation

4.1. Time break down
4.2. Budget break down



1.1. Background of the Study

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic country with over eighty five different ethnic groups and diverse cultural traits scattered throughout the country. Each ethnic group has their own cultural beliefs and practices that play a dominant role in shaping the behavior and action of its members. Bench people, as any other societies in Ethiopia, have their own forms of marriage and family system based on their culture. Families exist in all societies and they are part of what makes us human. However, societies around the world demonstrate tremendous variation in cultural understandings of family and marriage. Ideas about how people are related to each other, what kind of marriage would be ideal, when people should have children, who should care for children, and many other family related matters differ cross-culturally. Therefore, this study attempts to assess the marriage and family practices among Bench people.

Marriage and family are perhaps society’s oldest institutions that are important for human existence. Although marriage and family are the foundation of human society and universal phenomena, these mutual institutions vary across cultures throughout globe. So many anthropologists and sociologists try to investigate and describe those socio cultural diverse styles that are present in many ethnic groups throughout globe to give acquittance for many people’s those living in different continent of the world.

There are various conceptual perspectives that have been developed with respect to marriage and family, particularly with the notion that family is the entity responsible for the biological social reproduction. (cited in Ezra, Markos, 2003).

In Ethiopia the role of family is not limited to the sphere of biological reproduction and inter-generational solidarity. Families also play a crucial role as a production unit. More importantly family provides security in rural Ethiopia. This is true not only of emotional security, which so valued by other cultures, but also the security of survival and protection of the weak by the strong. The practice of these mutual institutions with in accepted norms and values of the society will provide greatest psycho- social satisfaction and valuable economic wealth. As it is the case with other societies, Bench societies has its own norms, customs, values, beliefs and cultural experiences that distinguish it from other societies. Since, multicultural practices in the society need comprehensive detailed studies.

Hence I was in this locality for more than seven years of my occupational placement and also as a member of society observed naturally the existing marriage and family system of Bench society in relation to the structure, forms of marriage, mate selection, marital arrangement, place of residence, and other related important family issues will be incorporated and represented through descriptive writing.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

Even though; some scholars have conducted anthropological and sociological studies on those multicultural practices in so many parts of the world including in Ethiopian societies way of life. The absence of well-trained domestic professional scholars and the scarcity of foreign scholars make difficulties to conduct comprehensive studies on diverse cultural practices of different ethnic groups in many parts of Ethiopia.

One of an adequately studied society in Ethiopia is the Bench society. In 2003, Hildebrand studies on economic, religion, language aspect of Bench ethnic groups. Morever, in 2009, individuals like Mirutse Gidaye,Zemede Asfaw,Zerihun Wolde,Tilahun T/haynot, attempt to studies on medicinal plan knowledge of this community. In 2013, individuals like Muluneh Tefera and Derge Tadesse studies on Ethno history of Bench people. Also in 2018 Adam Dagne studied on marital rights of women in Bench people. But these studies do not give comprehensive clue and do not address many aspects of marriage and family system of the people. Therefore, my research will attempt to asses and document the marriage and family aspect of Bench people. In doing so I will add ethnographic information of these people, as a result that will benefit many parties.

1.3. Objectives of the study

With the view to contribute to the solution to the above stated problems particularly problems related with the lack of detailed study on marriage and family system of Bench people, the research has aimed to address the following general and specific objectives.

1.3.1. General Objective

- The overall objective of this study is to investigate the marriage practice and family system in Bench people.

1.3.2. Specific Objectives

To address the general objective of the study, the specific objectives are:

- To identify types of customary marriage practice s in Bench people;
- To understand the nature and practice of bride price payment among Bench people;
- To identify forms of family in Bench people;
- To identify socio economic role of marriage and family in Bench people;
- To investigate the family system network in Bench people;
- To explore the history, economic activities ,belief systems of Bench people;
- To examine the perception of Bench and the societal attitudes towards the customary practice of bride price.

1.4. Research Questions

To attain the above problem statement, this study is attempted to address the following research questions are formulated:

- What are the types of customary marriage practice in Bench society?
- What are the forms of families in Bench society?
- What are the socio economic roles of marriage in Bench society?
- What are the perception of Bench and the attitudes of the society towards bride price?
- How the family network system functioned in Bench society?

1.5. Scope of the Study

This study has both thematic and geographical delimitations depending on budget and scope of the study. Thematically, it assessed customary marriage practices of Bench people, types of marriage, kinds of marriage payment, the role marriage and family in the Bench people.

Geographically, the study is delimited to Bench sheko zone, in SNNPR on the selected two kebeles namely Shasheqa and Hibret.

The target group of the study (interview) is selected from both the rural and urban places which incorporated different areas engaged in marriage and also who are not engaged of males and females. It will focus on identification of the marriage and family aspects of the Bench community.

1.6. Significance of the Study

Conducting this study has been multiple significances for different target groups especially it will have practical and academic significance. Firstly, the main significance of this study is to give an insight to general understanding of marriage and family system of Bench society and also serves as a springboard for future in-depth research and expansion of the research to other areas.

It also gives local based relevant information for government and nongovernment bodies who are interested to work for any family life improving interventions programs.


2.1. General Overview of marriage

Many Anthropologists have proposed several competing explanations or definitions of marriage, so as to encompass the wide variety of marital practices observed across cultures. However probably there was no definition stretched and qualified, which can includes all societies and all the relationships that have been called marriage.

Marriage is emotional and commitment of two people to share emotional and physical intimacy, various tasks and economic resources (Defrain and Olson, 1999;p 8).

Also marriage is not only the emotion of men and women, but it can include same sex couples in same culture of the world (ibid).

Edward Westermarck, defines marriage as “socially legitimate sexual union, began with public pronouncement under taken with the idea of permanence, assumed with more or less explicit marriage contract which spells out reciprocal economic obligation between spouses and their future children’s,(Westermarck 1921:71).

Bell describes marriage as “a relationship between one or more men (male or female) in severalty to one or more women that provides those men with a demand right of sexual access within a domestic group and identifies women who bear the obligation of yielding to the demands of those specific men(Bell 1997:38). Also Hobel(1966:32) defined marriage as a complex of social norms that defines and control the relation of a connubial pair to each other, their kin men , their offspring’s and society at large. It defines all the institutional demand rights, duties, immunities, and so on of the pairs as husband and wife. It is the institution that shapes the form and activities of the association known to the family.

The type, function and characteristics of marriage vary from culture to culture, and can change over time in different societies. Generally there are two types of marriage in the world. These are civil and religious based.

In America and Europe in the 20th c legally recognized marriage are formally presumed to be monogamous. In these countries divorce is relatively simple and accepted among the society. In the west marriage has involved from the little life time covenant that can only be broken by fault or death to a contract that can be broken by either party at will. As any other societies of the world, in Ethiopia there are different ways through which marriage can be contracted (Buagiar, 1964 in Dagne 1995: 33). Under the civil code of Ethiopia, marriage is monogamous union, as religious practice it has always been in Christians Ethiopia; it is voluntary union of one man and woman to the exclusion of all other. The code ignores and even prohibits the polygamous which is the common forms of marriage among many of the ethnic groups of Ethiopia with such fundamental limitations in it; the code recognizes three (3) types of marriage namely: civil marriage, religious marriage and customary marriage.

2.1.1 Marriage rules

Being conventionally prescribed by the society, marriage rules are expected to be followed in the interest of the solidarity of the group. These rules are believed to be important since they aim at preventing inbreeding and encouraging maximum possible out breeding with the social norm (Jha 1999:82). Two general patterns of marriage rules exist: endogamy, marriage between people of the same social group or category; and exogamy, marriage between people of different social groups or categories (Scupin and Decorse 1995: 282; Jha 1999:69).

Other rules of marriage are cross cousin marriage, a marriage in which male marries a female who is hi fathers sisters daughter or his mother’s brothers daughter( Scupin and Decorse2005:360;Jha 1999:82), and parallel cousin marriage , marriage in which a male marries his father’s brothers daughters(Scupin and Decorse 2005:384-5).

2.1.2. Forms of marriage

The most common forms of marriage are monogamous and polygamous. Monogamous is a form of marriage in which one spouses of each sex or one woman and one man are married only to each other (Schafer 2003:350;Kottak 2005: 177; Scupin and Decorse 1995:281;Jha 1999;71). Polygamy (plural marriage) , which is marriage of one to many spouses ; it has two forms : polygyny, a type of marriage in which one man marry more than one woman or a man has more than one wife, and more rarely polyandry, a type of marriage in which a woman has more than one husband ( Olson and Defrain 2000:50; Scupin and Decorse 1995:281). Also polyandry can be carried out in two forms. These are fraternal polyandry , a marriage in which brothers share a wife, and non-fraternal polyandry , a type of marriage in which non relatives share a wife or a woman marry more than one man but not necessarily brothers.

The other sub forms of marriage are levirate marriage or widow inheritance and sororate marriage or marrying deceased wife’s sister (Jha 1999:74). Arranged marriage is in other word is a form of marriage in which families mostly choose their child’s spouse; the reason was that youngsters are considered as un mature (Schafer 2003:537).

2.1.3 Functions of marriage

Marriage has several functions to the individuals as well as the whole community. According to Jha (1999:69-70) the four main function of marriage are as follows:

- Social function: the creation and perpetuation of the family, the formation of person-to-person relation and lining of one kin group to another kin group is possible through the institution of marriage.
- Biological function: human beings, like other animal species must mate so as to produce themselves. The sexual difference between human and other animal is that human beings tend to form relatively permanent mating pairs. This is made through marriage, which serves as a means for getting together to satisfy sexual needs and to found children(offspring’s).
- Educational function: with the institution of marriage that human infants who have the longest period of dependency get education through the process called enculturation, the process by which a child learns his or her culture; or in another way, the process by which culture is learned and transmitted across generations.
- Economic function: the institutions of marriage serve as an agent that performs economic function. It does this by bringing economic cooperation between men and women. This cooperation then leads in to survival of the society at large.


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Marriage and Family System among Bench People in South Western Ethiopia
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ISBN (Buch)
marriage, family, system, bench, people, south, western, ethiopia
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Mamo Tsegaye (Autor:in), 2019, Marriage and Family System among Bench People in South Western Ethiopia, München, GRIN Verlag,


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