The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: status of women
caption: divorce
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: 1. If a husband divorces his wife for no fault of her own, the court of elders must decide what proportion of the joint property she shall take as compensation. In any case she takes her weaving apparatus, clothes and personal property, but is also entitled to a share, however small, of the household paddy or husked rice, 'laukis', and minor household effects and produce, though not to anything purely her husband's property. The man forfeits all claim to the marriage price.
text: 2. If a husband divorces his wife for persistent theft or other fault short of adultery, she takes only her personal property and is entitled to no share in the joint property. The husband forfeits all claim to the marriage price unless it had not been paid in full, in which case the instalments stop and he pays no more of it.
text: 3. If a woman commits adultery, her husband, if of any self respect, divorces her on the spot and throws her out of the house with a beating for good measure, and another for the lover if he can find him. Adultery is classed with the serious offences, and the male offender is sent out of the village at once and sentence of banishment imposed. In the old days the injured husband, unless prevented, killed both the wife and her lover.
text: Poor men who have no chance of getting another wife will sometimes condone adultery, but no man of means would do so for a second. So abhorrent is the mere idea that a man may divorce his wife for theft on the ground that, if she repeat the offence, some eyewitness might demand satisfaction as the price of silence.
text: 4. If a woman leave her husband early i.e. within three years of the marriage, and of her own accord, her husband is entitled to the return of half the marriage price. He may get more if he can press his suit strongly enough before the court of elders.
text: 5. If a woman runs away because of ill-treatment, neglect or desertion, she is not entitled to a divorce and the case becomes one of voluntary desertion by the wife, and her parents are bound to return half the marriage price, or as decided by the court. If she runs away after the first three years, or such lesser period as may have been specified when the marriage-terms were agreed on, her parents are not liable for the return of the price.
text: 6. Infidelity on the part of the husband is not a ground for divorce.