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While over eighty percent of cultures around the world allow polygyny, or the marriage of one man to more than one woman, only four known cultures allow polyandry, the marriage of one woman to more than one man (Pasternak, 1997). Even rarer is the practice of fraternal polyandry, or the marriage of a set of brothers to one wife, which is found exclusively in South Asia (Stockard, 2002). The Nyinba, an ethnically Tibetan patrilineal and patrilocal population that lives in the Humla District of Nepal, not only allow polyandry, it is the cultural ideal (Levine, 1997). While experts are still unsure whether the harsh environment of the Himalayas caused polyandry or not, the Nyinba have certainly adopted their way of life to the unique marriage structure. The Nyinba are raised to cooperate and share, match the ideal number of brothers to their economic opportunities, and divide their labor by gender, and each of these characteristics influences their marriage practices and gender relations. Continue reading →
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