Life revolves around the family for most Fijians. Life is shared intimately between family members and the interests of the family are supposed to supersede those of the individual. Fijian households are usually headed by a senior couple. The man is the primary breadwinner of the family unit and the woman generally supervises all other females in the house and disciplines the children. Children often live with their parents past the age of independence, and marriage is (with the daughter-in-law moving in with her husband’s family at marriage).
It is common for households to be multigenerational as elders rarely live independently in Fiji. Those who are widowed will usually move into the household of one of their adult children. However, in the urban areas and cities of Fiji, nuclear families are the typical household unit. They are also more common among Indo-Fijians and European Fijians.
In the villages, native Fijians socialise within their groups; they associate with those households that they share a male ancestor with. These households form extended family networks that are patrilineal subclans (mataqali). They provide a lot of community-wide support. Generally, the families belonging to each subclan will live in the same area of a village and make an exclusive claim to that area. Within villages, there may be multiple subclans; however, one usually dominates (often the subclan the village chief belongs to). These subclans combine to form (yavusa) that also share a more distant male ancestor.
Some Indo-Fijian families have not been in Fiji long enough to have developed these extended groups. However, Indian culture is similarly dependent on extended family networks and support. They often form close communities with many and maternal family members that may or may not be blood relatives.
Both indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian societies have been traditionally with gender roles generally divided across traditional lines. Society’s opinion of women is influenced by the perception that they are the more delicate and gentle gender that needs protecting. Therefore, while women are less powerful than men, they are considered more precious. They are generally given less physically arduous jobs and are rarely expected to have full-time jobs or do things for themselves. This can be hindering for Fijian women in Australia who may struggle to adjust to working life. Some Indo-Fijian women also carry particular social expectations within their communities as subordinates to their husbands.
Women have less decision-making power than men. Some may have a high rank in their village or community, in which case they are deferred to for their wisdom and status. However, largely, a woman turns to her husband to resolve things for her. He is seen as the physical worker, breadwinner and also the more rational gender. This can put a lot of pressure on Fijian men to rise to the occasion. They are expected to take responsibility for any problems or disputes that arise in a family and may carry the blame if a resolution isn’t reached.
Despite this traditional view of gender roles, modern Fiji is seeing a rise in the amount of households that are female-headed. Fijian women are also becoming more politically represented.
Relationships and Marriage
The institution of marriage is recognised primarily as the merging of two families. Thus, parents used to arrange the marriages of their children to ensure the families were compatible. Today, arranged marriage is a less common practice, but has persisted particularly among the Indian community. While most couples choose their partner without their family’s arrangement, people strongly consider factors such as the other family’s wealth, reputation and . Ultimately, the family of the bride or groom wish for the union with the other person’s family to strengthen ties and also the social status of their own household.
Traditionally, sons-in-law have to prove themselves before a bride’s parents will approve of him. If a couple’s parents disapprove of the other person’s family, they may disobey their families and elope. In this case, the husband’s family must quickly remedy the irregular relationship by offering apologies to the wife’s family and bringing gifts. As the bride sometimes moves into her husband’s place of residence at marriage (often still with his parents), it can be a particularly difficult living situation if his parents disapproved of the marriage in the first place.
Interethnic marriage has increased dramatically among the current generation of Fijians. Indigenous Fijians tend to marry Europeans, Pacific Islanders and Chinese more often than they do Indians. Indo-Fijians are more likely to marry exclusively within their . For example, Gujaratis have been known to travel back to their province in India in order to bring back someone of the same for marriage. Marriage between different religions (even within the same ) is most uncommon.
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