The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: divorce
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: General
text: Divorce is allowed for incompatibility and desertion and adultery on the part of the wife; adultery by the husband is not a cause for divorce unless it amounts to desertion. Cases are settled by the usual council of elders, who decide the forfeiture (or not) of the marriage price and the division of the joint property.
text: Divorce for insufficient reasons entails the return or forfeiture of the marriage price, and the friends and relations of the erring partner usually do all they can to heal the breach. Wives who run away after a quarrel, as frequently happens, are sometimes coaxed and sometimes brought forcibly home again by the husband's relatives, divorce being only a last resort. When divorce takes place, however, unweaned children stay with the mother until weaned, when they return to the father, who must pay the "milk-price" of about Rs 10/-. Cases are known of women divorced against their will being so angry that they abandon the child unweaned.
text: If a pregnant woman is divorced, she must remain chaste until her child has been born, after which she is free to court and to re- marry at her pleasure. Men may not pay court to a woman until her divorce is settled; such conduct verges on adultery, as she might still go back to her husband.
text: Particular
text: 1) If a man puts away his wife, without good reason, the court decides what part of the joint property (i.e. dhan, "laokis", household goods and moveables) she shall take, and the husband forfeits the marriage price.
text: 2) If a wife leaves her husband early in their married life - as in the first year - he is entitled to the return of half the cash price; the consumables, fowls, pigs, zu and mithan, and half the cash (for expenses incurred) are kept by the girl's family. The husband also receives back the cooking-pots, necklaces and other unconsumable portions of the marriage price.
text: 3) If a woman commits adultery her husband, if of any self- respect, divorces her on the spot with a beating for good measure and she is entitled to no share in any of the property. Formerly he husband generally killed her, unless prevented, and her lover if he could find him. As with all serious offences, the seducer is removed from the village under armed guard and settled elsewhere, the case being heard and sentence pronounced in his absence. Banishment for a number of years is the usual punishment.