In traditional Xhosa society woman have a lower social
status than men. A man may have more than one wife. Each wife will have her own house to live in.
The first wife is the most important and wife and lives in a house called the
great house.They were usually distinguished in rank according to different houses.
A man has to negotiate the payment for his bride with his future father-in-law.
Payment for a bride is called a lobola and is usually made in animals
such as cattle. Marriage within a clan is not permitted. Marriage is avoided with
the clans of all four grand parents.
No woman is allowed to wear the dress which ends above the knees. They also were not allowed to mention the father-in-law's name and surname. Also words that even sound like his name are not allowed to be spoken. For instance if a father-in-law's name is Njoli, a wife is not permitted to use the word dog because inja the Xhosa word for dog sounds like Njoli! Even when she went to places like hospital she has to bring a child with her in case a doctor asks a surname, the child would then tell the doctor the surname.
A wife's responsiblities include cleaning the home, looking after the children, collecting fire-wood and working in the fields.
Life for woman in rural areas is still traditional. Today marriage to more than one woman does not happen often as marriage is expensive. Xhosa woman are challenging there traditional roles as they see them as sexist and discriminatory.