Daj / Dad

Position of the husband and wife in the family

The wife-mother begins to earn greater respect when she has several children. The more children she has, the stronger her position becomes:

Lačhi daj hin ča ajsi, kaj hin la but čhave. Te la hin duj čhave, trin, oda ňič. (R. Dzurko 1981)
"A good mother is only one who has many children. If she has only two or three, she isn't a real mother yet." (R. Dzurko 1981)

From a bride (bori) she becomes a mother and with the growing up of the oldest son who brings a bride home, she acquires the job of being a mother-in-law (savsi).

Despite the fact that the mother bore, still bears today, much greater responsibility in the family than the father, the last word in the home belonged to the father. [Bringing up the children] Outside, a woman showed her second-place position by always walking a few steps behind her husband. In Roma settlements, and even in families of older Roma husbands living in towns, this custom is still kept today.

Me ňigda na dikhľom, kaj o dod pes ľidžal la daha tel e khak. Na dikhľom ňigdy. Kana džanas, ta o dad džalas peršo, e daj duj trin kroki pal leste. Abo pes te čumidel, ňigda! (J.K.)
"I never saw my father walking arm-in-arm with my mother. Never. When they walked together, he walked ahead and my mother stayed three steps behind him. Nor did I ever see them kiss. Never!" (J.K.)

In the younger generation, this display of subordination is disappearing. Another display of modesty of the wife toward the husband was her washing his feet, which proved not only her respect for him, but also her love and submission. The father often enjoyed great respect even if he was not considered a good father.

Amen avka le dades šunahas, hjaba hoj o dad na sas lačho - na džalas te kerel buťi, ča te bašavel džalas a furt pijelas, mato furt pijelas. Te anelas love, ta jepaš furt prepijelas a imar la da love na sas, našťi gejľa aňi te cinel maro. Th'avka le dades šunahas. (R. Horváthová 1985)
"We obeyed our father even though he wasn't good. He didn't work. He just went and played and drank all the time. He was always drunk. He drank up half the money he earned and then my mother didn't have enough money, even for food. But just the same, we obeyed our father more." (R. Horváthová 1985)

It is not possible to generalise from this example because a man who did not look after his family was usually criticised by the other members of the community. In various ways, they let him know their contempt: they began to look at him askance ("Dikhenas pre leste banges"), they mocked him with derisive doggerel, or they sometimes spat. If he did not improve, such a man could lose his authority and the respect of his family and the whole Roma community for life. One way in which the family expressed contempt for him was that his sons-in-law, or other younger members of the family, who until then had used the polite form of address and treated him with respect, began to speak to him in the familiar form and to call him Romani or other derogatory names.

This kind of social control touched practially all of the members of the community. A mother whose children walked around dirty, with shabby clothing, or hungry was gossiped about by the other women and was considered a bad mother (nalačhi daj). The behaviour of any woman was under the constant surveillance of the other women in the settlement. A woman, therefore, had to adapt to the will and pressure of the public opinion of the settlement. If she did not, she was even threatened with expulsion from the community so she would have to go back to her family:

Te kamelas e romňi le romňenca te dživel šukares andro gav, ta mušinlas te šunel le phure romňen, hoj sar kampel de dživel, sar kampel te tavel, sar kampel te pratinel, no a te kajsi sas, hoj avlas pal aver gav a na kamelas te prisikľol, ta mušinlas andal odi osada te džal khere, khatar sas. (I.L. 1982)
"If a wife wanted to live in peace with the other women in the settlement, she had to obey the older women who told her how to live, how to cook and how to clean. And if the wife came from another settlement and did not want to adapt, she had to go back to the settlement she came from." (I.L. 1982)
Dojekh romňi prindžarel le muršeskero vast.
"Every wife recognizes her husband's hand."
Ajse romňa sas, hoj te la o rom na marlas, ta oj leha na dživlas, bo oj phenlas kavke: Te man miro rom na demel, ta džanav, hoj man na kamel. No a o rom phenlas: Vaš oda, hoj me mira romňa igen kamav, vaš oda la the marav. (I. Lacková)
"There were women who, if their husbands did not beat them, said, "If my husband doesn't beat me, I'll know that he doesn't love me." And a husband said, "I love my wife. That's why I beat her"." (I. Lacková)

A man used to beat - and often still beats - his wife out of jealousy. Jealousy is also frequently understood as an expression of love. Despite that, a wife often publicly reveals that her husband as a philanderer. A husband is proud of that and his wife is, too, because, of all women, he picked her out to be his life companion.

While infidelity of men is more or less tolerated, a wife's unfaithfulness is unjustifiable and unacceptable. If a woman is suspected of infidelity, she has to keep swearing to her husband that it isn't true. If her betrayal is proved, her husband can leave her. If he does not want to leave her, he often punishes her very harshly by beating her and sometimes cutting off all her hair. In that case, it is not her husband, but relatives of her husband, and sometimes her own relatives who do the cutting. In the latter case, that is how they show that they are distancing themselves from her behaviour so that the shame (ladž) will fall only on her head.

In the past, a wife rarely dared to contradict or hit her husband in public. She knew that contradicting him would cause him great shame, and he would lose respect in male society, which, within the framework of the community, would not be in her interest.

Te na obačhiľahas ov, ta na obačhiľahas aňi oj, bo mušinďahas oj le čhavenca te džal pal leste. No ta vaš oda na tromanďiľa. (I.L.)
"If he himself did not pass muster, then neither did she. She had to follow him, along with the children. That is why she never dared (to hit him)." (I.L.)

In cases when a husband beat his wife for no reason except out of cruelty, there existed on the part of the community some kind of protection. For example, other children from the settlement made fun of such a man and provoked him to such an extent that his anger spilled out on them, so he chased them through the whole settlement. When he returned home, his anger was already gone and he left his wife in peace.

An important disciplinary medium was songs sung during social events. One of the well-known singers reproached a husband in song:

Gejzo, Gejzo, so tu keres,
Raťi ďives mat phires,
So zarodes, savoro prepijes,
Aves khere, la romňa mares.
Gejzo, Gejzo, what are you doing,
You are drunk night and day,
Whatever you earn you drink up,
You come home and beat your wife.
(Veľká Lomnice 1966; the criticised husband slipped away from the party with downcast eyes.)

Sometimes an adolescent son could protect his mother from being beaten.

Chuťiľom kijo dad a phenav: Vaš soske la mares? Vaš oda, kaj pre amende kerel sar koda graj? Vaš oda, kaj zajdi pre tute hordinel? A ov pre mande kavka dikhľa u akorestar la imar ňigda na marlas. Imar mandar ladžalas the daralas. (V. Fabián)
"I ran over to my father and asked, "Why are you beating her? Because she slaves for us like a blind horse? Because she brings you food in a zajda?" And he only looked at me, but, after that, he never hit her. He was shy with me and he was afraid of me." (V. Fabián tells how, when he was twelve or thirteen, he caught his father beating his mother and he stood in front of her to protect her.)

Text based on

Žlnayová, Edita (1996) Postavení a úloha ženy-matky a muža-otca v rómskej rodine (Position and role of the wife-mother and husband-father in the Romani family). In: Romano džaniben 96/1-2.
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