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Anecdotally there are high rates of domestic violence in the small Micronesian State of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia FSM , but there have been no studies to quantify the prevalence or characteristics of domestic violence in Yap or in any other state of the FSM. A survey was administered to women at the Yap hospital and community health centers from February through June Survey data were on domestic violence, which was supplemented by a focus group to explore the issues involved in greater detail. A high prevalence of domestic violence was documented by the survey; perceptions about this were explored in the focus group. Given the small number of adult women in Yap, these findings suggest that domestic violence is a serious, pervasive problem that Yap needs urgently to address.
The survey on domestic violence was conducted on Yap from February through June The anonymous written survey was offered to all women, aged 18 years and over. Some health care providers also offered the survey in several villages throughout Wa'ab. Most women completed the survey without assistance from anyone. For women who requested translation services, health professionals from the WCHC or Yap Department of Health Services assisted in completing the survey. An Access database was created to enter survey responses, which were then exported to Excel for tabulation and analysis by the authors.
For partially completed surveys, the denominator was adjusted for categories that were unanswered. Surveys had no personal identification on them, so it is impossible to determine whether women took the survey more than once; however, women were instructed to submit only one survey, and results were examined to be certain no exactly duplicate responses were submitted.
A single focus group was conducted to discuss the issues involved in IPV in greater detail. Eight Yapese women volunteered to participate in the four-hour session. All women were from two villages in the same municipality. The focus group was held in a community house in one of their villages. No incentives were offered. The discussion was conducted in Yapese, facilitated by this paper's first author who is fluent in Yapese. The following six questions were asked in the focus group:.
Women were not selected because they were abused, only because they volunteered to participate. The focus group was recorded and transcribed into English. Data were analyzed using classic triangulation analysis, 19 with key passages selected by the authors.
Key Results of the Domestic Violence Survey different denominators indicate number of women who answered that question. Respondents also indicated how they wanted the problem of domestic violence addressed on Yap.
Four main themes emerged from the focus groups: 1 personal experiences of abuse; 2 reasons for silence on the topic; 3 cultural influences; and 4 suggestions for improving the situation.
All eight focus group participants reported having experienced at least one type of abuse or to know another female victim. They agreed that the consumption of alcoholic beverages and use of marijuana contribute greatly to domestic violence on Yap.
These women felt that when they were growing up, intimate partner violence was less frequent and less common in their parents' generation. There are women who reported being physically abused if a man other than their intimate male partner talked to her - at work, shopping or at a social gathering. As for records at the hospital, focus group participants did not believe that there was much IPV data for Yap because, when they do seek medical care, the description of the incident is changed before the woman reaches the hospital.
Victims claim they fell or weren't looking where they were going and walked right into a door or corner of a shelf. Instead of seeking medical care, most women either stay home or go to their family for local medicine to treat the cuts, bruises and broken bones. These women are constantly living in fear and are reminded that if they leave they will never see their children or meet someone else. Though much of the abuse seems barbaric, most of the women on Yap choose to stay in their marriage.
He came the next day sober and said he will never drink again, yell at us and tell us to leave. It's been more than five years and it's still happening, but I'm only staying for the children. One woman commented that in Yapese culture, if the woman dies while married to her husband, their children will have land, which provides them with security and stability.
But abuse of any type is not a part of the traditional culture of Yap. There was no tradition of using violence to 'discipline' your wife. When two or more women gather, participants related, they often gossip about a guy in the community who beat up his wife because of the visible bruises on her face and arms, but when she is confronted she lies and comes up with excuses.
When asked why some women don't go and ask someone in the community for assistance, the respondents felt that this would be perceived as gossiping about your family and allowing the community to know what one's husband does. Since Yap is small in size and population, women fear that once the word reaches their partner, the next beating will be worse than the last and will come at a time when they least expect it.
Focus group participants also noted that they are not the only victims of abuse. One of the women said her husband verbally and physically abused their children to make her feel bad.
Every time I tell him not to yell or talk harshly at our kids especially in a crowd, I always get beaten up at home and yelled at that I'm an animal and do nothing for him or his family. Some women report feeling ashamed if the community finds out. Some feel they deserved the abuse, and there are women who feel it is a private family matter that should not involve the government, community members, or friends.
Both our survey and focus group demonstrate that domestic abuse is definitely a problem in Yap. The results of this study suggest that Yap may fit into the mid-range of domestic abuse rates throughout the world.
Domestic violence is not healthy in any relationship, regardless of culture or traditions. Yap's women are especially vulnerable, as this study indicates that they face high rates of domestic violence but lack options for escape, protection or support. The FSM laws may not have a clear legal position aimed specifically at domestic violence, but domestic violence falls under the definition and description of assault under Yap State Law No. The FSM did accede without reservations to the UN treaty that included the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in September of27 though it remains unclear whether the FSM regards itself as bound by the provisions of that treaty.
The prevalence of domestic violence throughout the FSM, including the Outer Islands of Yap, should be documented by surveys similar to this one, to inform a national level policy discussion on how to remedy the problem in ways that are culturally sensitive yet effective. These findings are subject to several limitations. As the study was conducted in the health centers and hospital, the study sample may not be perfectly representative of all Yapese women. However, because health care services are essentially free in Yap and the health centers are distributed around Wa'ab, the survey is likely to be representative of the women of Wa'ab.
Clearly the sample is not representative of the women residing in the outer islands. Only 7 Outer Island women completed the survey, and therefore the results may not be applicable to Yap's Outer Islands. For a more representative sample, women from the Outer Islands need to be included in future research. The sample suffers from being a convenience sample and therefore is open to bias, since data were gathered from a convenience sample.
Women who were either abused themselves or knew of someone may have been more interested in participating, which would result in the over-representation of the prevalence of IPV. However, it may also be argued that women who experienced abuse may be more uncomfortable with participating in a domestic violence survey or focus group, which in turn would result in the under-reporting of IPV. The proclamation urged all residents of the FSM to raise social awareness on the issue of domestic violence against women and its prevention.
It would be beneficial if individuals and agencies in the community that have experience, training, and education on violence and substance abuse advocate for the victims and raise community awareness that this problem requires action. Together these agencies, along with the hospital and community health centers, should participate in discussions on ways that social policies can be improved to address this problem, a discussion this study hopefully facilitates.
The authors would like to thank the participants in our focus group, the women who completed the survey, as well as Julie Yoruw, Sophia Guruweg, Martin Bel, Richter Yow, Angelica Agapito, Anna Boliy, Doris Raimon, and Clara Giltineg and all the women of Yap for all their assistance and support on this project. National Center for Biotechnology InformationU. Hawaii J Med Public Health. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author.
Correspondence to: Gregory G. Abstract Anecdotally there are high rates of domestic violence in the small Micronesian State of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia FSMbut there have been no studies to quantify the prevalence or characteristics of domestic violence in Yap or in any other state of the FSM. Methods This study used a mixed methods design. Survey Data Collection Procedures: No previous surveys have been conducted in Micronesia, so no culturally appropriate validated survey instrument exists.
Survey Analysis An Access database was created to enter survey responses, which were then exported to Excel for tabulation and analysis by the authors.
The following six questions were asked in the focus group: Is domestic violence part of our culture? What do you think causes a husband or partner to become violent? Why do women still stay in the marriage? Urban residents who rely on the cash economy are settled in close proximity to government offices and places of employment. They generally own little arable land, though they often tend small gardens on house plots. Rural villages on high islands are located within a short distance of both the sea and extensive family gardens devoted to taro, yam, sweet potato, or cassava cultivation.
Communities on the coral atolls are usually concentrated along the leeward shoreline of lagoons, not far from more centrally located taro pits, providing protection from storms and access to both marine and terrestrial resources. Food in Daily Life. The social and symbolic significance of food is one of the most salient cts of life in Micronesia.
Sharing food is an expression of solidarity that validates kinship ties and defines a host of rights, duties, and obligations between people. Meals usually consist of a starchy carbohydrate, and fish or chicken, and may include a variety of fruits.
Taro, breadfruit, yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava are the primary starches. Meat, usually fish, is also considered to be an essential part of Micronesian meals. Hundreds of edible fish species are available to fishers in addition to an abundance of marine turtles, shellfish, and crustaceans.
Locally-raised livestock, including chicken and pigs, is usually reserved for feasting. Fruits accompany mealtime, and are casually eaten throughout the day, or are incorporated into recipes; fruits include coconut, banana, papaya, pandanus, mango, and a variety of citrus.
Production and consumption of locally harvested produce has diminished throughout the FSM as a result of an increasing reliance on the cash economy and imported foods. Today, boiled rice, fried or baked bread, pancakes, and ramen noodles Maritime and voyaging themes are major cultural symbols in Micronesia; the sea is viewed as joining the islands together, rather than separating them. Canned meats have made similar inroads, but atoll residents and rural high-islanders still rely heavily on subsistence fishing.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Food is the focal point of most ceremonial occasions. Feasts involving the distribution of enormous quantities of food are integral to religious ceremonies, government celebrations, and secular parties marking life-cycle events and changes in status.
The distribution of food takes place in accordance with culture-specific rules of hierarchy and etiquette, and is often a sign of the host's wealth and generosity.
Certain foods assume a special status during feasts and are considered essential. In Pohnpei, for example, pigs, yams, and sakau a beverage, with psychoactive properties, made from piper methisticum root are the most prestigious foods featured during feasts. Elsewhere, taro, sugarcane, and coconuts figure prominently. Although subsistence produce and "traditional" recipes are highlighted during feasts, foreign food imports are gaining currency as markers of wealth among those participating more fully in the market economy.
Basic Economy. The cash economy is almost entirely dependent on the flow of funds from the United States. Sixty percent of compact disbursements support administrative costs of the government including salaries and benefits, and 40 percent are funneled into infrastructure projects and economic development. Thus, the FSM's public sector drives the cash economy and supports the small, service-oriented private sphere.
The subsistence economy is based on small-scale horticulture, fishing, and the exploitation of resources in kinbased island territories. Participation in these two spheres of the economy is not mutually exclusive and many subsistence farmers and fishers move in and out of the cash economy. Remittances from family members participating in the cash economy also supplement the income of households primarily engaged in subsistence production.
The prestige economy, based on indigenous forms of status, reciprocity, and exchange, intersects these two dimensions of the economy. Land Tenure and Property. On the small islands in the FSM, land is scarce. Complex, diverse, and often competing tenure systems governing ownership and access rights to the precious land have developed throughout the islands.
Many of these systems include aboriginal and postcolonial elements. On most islands access to land may depend upon membership in a lineage or clan. With the exception of Yap and a few atolls in the state of Pohnpei where patrilineal affiliation governed inheritance of land rights, matrilineages traditionally controlled estates in Micronesia.
These estates were often subject to chiefly authority and control. In most cases, the oldest male member of the matrilineage managed the estate. After a century of colonial rule, systems of land tenure followed the path away from corporate, descent group ownership toward individualization of tenure.
Furthermore, the nuclearization of the family and greater individual self-interest accompanying Westernization are weakening systems of land tenure based on lineage affiliation. Commercial Activities. Commercial production, conducted on a very small scale in the FSM, is centered on subsistence produce. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish are sold in roadside markets throughout the region. The commercial sale of merchandise and food imports is the mainstay of the many mom-and-pop shops scattered across the islands and the larger retailers and wholesalers.
Handicrafts made from local materials are also sold on a limited scale to tourists. Major Industries. The FSM economy suffers from the impoverished state of the industrial sector. There are only two small garment factories in the entire nation.
The agricultural industry is limited by the high costs of transshipment and a shortage of arable land. Fishing is the most successful and potentially lucrative industry in the FSM. The nation's exclusive economic zone EEZ contains 2. To date, local fishing companies and joint ventures have had limited success, but the sale of fishing licenses and access rights to the EEZ account for over half of the nation's internal revenue.
Tourism attracts more than 20, visitors a year, but occupancy rates average only 30 percent throughout the FSM. Lack of infrastructure, inadequate hotel facilities, and limited air transportation hamper the development of a mass tourist market. Import dependence is high in the FSM, and the trade balance deficit is equivalent to roughly 60 percent of gross domestic product GDP. The export sector of the economy is small, averaging 5 percent of the GDP.
Niche agricultural produce, including gourmet pepper, sakau kavabetel nut, and citrus fruit, is exported in limited quantities. Copra dried coconut fleshonce the region's main export, is now produced in limited supplies due to falling prices and competing markets. Marine products account for approximately 80 percent of the nation's commodity export market. Division of Labor.
Education is one of the principal bases upon which the division of labor in the cash economy is built. Employees of the state and federal governments are typically high school graduates and many hold postsecondary degrees. Mastery of the English language is another trait of salaried workers in the government sector. Among participants in the subsistence economy, labor is primarily divided on the basis of gender.
Age and ability also influence the assignment of tasks. Children begin performing domestic chores at an early age, assisting in child care and other gender-specific work.
In addition, experts with specialized knowledge may perform specific tasks related to healing, building, or divining.
Classes and Castes. Social hierarchies in the Caroline Islands are a complex amalgam of indigenous ranking systems and income-centered socioeconomic stratification. Traditional ranking systems across the islands are diverse, but the greatest differences in status are typically found on the high islands where status is primarily determined by descent group affiliation, seniority, and the relationship between people and the land.
Age, gender, achievement, and specialized knowledge, in addition to kinship affiliation and land claims, are typically important for determining status on the more egalitarian coral atolls. Achievement in the market economy, however, constitutes another dimension of stratification in the FSM that has, in some instances, eroded indigenous status distinctions. Symbols of Social Stratification. Traditional hierarchies and income-based class distinctions are evident in behavior, language, and consumption practices.
High ranking, in genealogy, age, or title, is acknowledged by acts of deference and displays of respect by those of lower rank. Respected elders or title holders may receive the first share of food at a feast, or may be seated in an honored position. Traditional stratification may be marked by the use of a special honorific language reserved for people of high title, the observance of taboos and ritual proscriptions, or displays of generosity that accompany Men gather for a meeting outside the men's house, a community building where men eat, sleep, and store their canoes.
Meetinghouses and feast houses are important places for social interaction among Micronesians. The accumulation of goods and conspicuous consumption, hallmarks of income-based class distinctions, is growing in importance among participants in the market economy.
Automobiles, appliances, food imports, and Western-style houses and dress have become symbols of economic success throughout the FSM. The structure of the FSM's national government is modeled on U.
The president, head of the executive branch, is elected to a four-year term by the National Congress from among its members. The unicameral National Congress constitutes the legislative branch of the government and is composed of fourteen senators.
The Supreme Court, consisting of trial and appellate divisions, is headed by a chief justice and no more than five associate justices appointed for life by the president with the advice and consent of the National Congress. Each of the four state governments includes executive, legislative, and judicial branches, while municipalities within each state govern at the village level.
Leadership and Political Officials.
There are no political parties in the FSM. Elected officials represent a great diversity of cultures and interests. The tendency of leaders to vote in the interests of their state's constituents has, at times, hampered consensus and fostered a sense of disunity. Leadership on the national, state, and municipal levels is interwoven with a strong attachment to traditional forms of local leadership. Today, there is some crossover between traditional leadership and elective office.
For example, two councils of chiefs constitute a fourth branch of the Yap State government. In Chuuk and Pohnpei many district magistrates also hold titles based on descent, and elected officials often have genealogical ties to traditional leaders. Social Problems and Control. The structure of courts in the FSM is patterned after the judicial system of the United States with federal trial and appellate divisions and state supreme and district courts.
Law enforcement is handled by both municipal and state police officers. Despite the existence of formal legal mechanisms, crime is often handled by local communities in accordance with customary practice.
Societies throughout the FSM feature a variety of formal and informal social control mechanisms. Formal control may be conducted by a council of elders or persons of chiefly status who mediate between parties and levy fines. Informal control stems from the avoidance of actions that cause shame and embarrassment and the need to maintain one's personal and family status through honorable and respectful behavior.
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A sense of corporate responsibility among kin, coupled with the interdependence of island societies, curbs disruptive behaviors. The most pressing social problems in the FSM are related to the sociocultural transformations occurring as a result of Westernization. The high rate of suicide among young males is related to the erosion of traditional authority, the declining significance of the extended family, and the displacement of young men seeking education and employment away from home communities.
These factors, coupled with alcohol consumption and the lack of clearly defined roles, also contribute to the high frequency of youth violence and delinquency. Alcoholism and the declining influence of extended kin on nuclear family relationships appear to be factors in the increasing incidence of physical and sexual domestic abuse. Military Activity. Under the provisions of the Compact of Free Association between the FSM and the United States, the United States is granted full authority and responsibility for the nation's security and defense.
The FSM has a generous system of social welfare. Health services are provided and medications dispensed for a nominal fee to all citizens. The government absorbs most costs, including the high cost of overseas referrals. Grants from the U.
Department of Health and Human Services cover the cost of many immunization and disease prevention programs. Education is compulsory through eighth grade and is freely provided through twelfth grade. Free public education is made possible through direct U. Department of Education, and compact funds that also provide scholarships for college study in the United States. The nation also operates a social security system that provides monthly income to retirees.
Millions of dollars in grants are funneled into the FSM by a host of U. Relief from typhoons, droughts, landslides, and other natural disasters is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Division of Labor by Gender. Among those who participate in the subsistence economy, gender is a major organizing principle in the division of labor. Women are the primary child-care providers and gardeners. They are responsible for many domestic chores including meal preparation and laundry. Women also harvest subsistence produce, weave mats, tend livestock, glean shellfish, and fish inshore.
Men are the primary builders and carpenters. They do much of the heavy labor associated with subsistence horticulture and conduct the more dangerous fishing activities beyond the reef. High status positions in religious and traditional political hierarchies are primarily held by men, although women's church organizations provide a separate system of ranking among the women in some societies.
Participation in the market economy has blurred the strict demarcation of gender roles associated with subsistence production. Across the FSM, 52 percent of females 15 years of age and older participate in the cash economy compared to 66 percent of males.
Men still hold the higher status jobs in government, but the increasing frequency of female employment in the labor force often requires men to perform domestic tasks traditionally performed by women. The Relative Status of Women and Men.
Yap, the western-most state of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is located in the western Caroline Islands midway between Guam and Palau. Yap has a total population of approximately 11, 1 A majority, 65%, of the population resides on Wa'ab (Yap Proper): four islands connected by roads, waterways and channels, which includes the town Author: Geraldine Luchuen Dugwen, W Thane Hancock, James Gilmar, John Gilmatam, Petra Tun, Gregory G Maskari. The establishment of the Congress of Micronesia in was the first sign of the Micronesian movement towards autonomy. Dissatisfaction with the TTPI administration's inadequate development strategies and their own lack of control over economic planning compelled members of the congress to press for self-government. Micronesian Brides The Federated States of Micronesia is an independent, sovereign island nation in the Western Pacific Ocean. The country consists of islands with the capital, Palikir, located on the island of Pohnpei.
With the exception of Yap and a few coral atoll societies in Pohnpei, Micronesian societies emphasize matrilineal descent. Women, therefore, are the channels through which identity, titles, land rights, and property are acquired. This provides women with a level of status that is not found in more patriarchal societies, allowing women to exercise considerable influence over the conduct of domestic affairs, and even the allocation of use rights to land. Men typically control the political and economic affairs in the public sphere and have ultimate authority over domestic decisions, but the complementarity of tasks provides males and females with valued roles in society.
The shift towards a market-oriented economy, however, has unsettled traditional gender relations. In many societies, the patrilineal emphasis of Western cultures is eroding matrilineal inheritance A paved road in the coastal village of Kolonia, Pohnpei. Pohnpei is the main island in Micronesia.
Although polygamy was practiced traditionally, monogamy has been the norm since the arrival of Christianity in the mids. Marriages in many parts of the FSM are still arranged by families with the consent of prospective spouses. Marriage unions that create family alliances and concentrate land, wealth, and status, such as preferential cross-cousin marriage, are favored in many Micronesian societies.
Clan exogamy is still a very important marriage requirement. A large majority of marriages take place under the auspices of Christian churches, but they are often preceded by common-law unions in which couples co-reside. Formal marriages typically involve the exchange of gifts between the spouses' families and feasting to mark the occasion, and may involve the transfer of land between families.
Divorce can be initiated by either spouse, but it is less commonly practiced among couples with children. Domestic Unit. Households are often composed of extended kin. On average, extended kin account for 18 percent of household membership.
Federated States of Micronesia
This is down from 30 percent in the s, indicating a clear trend towards the nuclearization of the domestic group. Household composition is dependent on a variety of postmarital residence patterns.
Where patrilocality is the norm Pohnpei, Yapthe household may consist of a joint family of brothers, their wives, and children, or a stem family that includes multiple generations of father-son ties. Conversely, matrilocal residence favored in Chuuk and Yap's outer islands establishes a household composed of related women and in-marrying husbands.
Neolocal residence, which encourages the creation of nuclear families, is gaining popularity due to Westernization and the influence of the market economy.
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Customs governing the inheritance of land, corporeal property, and certain skills or lore are complicated by the rapid pace of Westernization. In general, individually owned corporeal property may be disposed of in accordance with the owner's wishes and is usually passed to children or siblings. Specialized knowledge may be owned by descent groups, but it is commonly inherited by children of the possessors who are deemed to be competent and adept students.
Land is another issue. Where land is owned by a corporate descent group, usufruct rights are inherited either matrilineally or patrilineally upon birth or adoption into a lineage.
Lifelong use rights to specific plots of land may be divided by the male lineage head among his sons patrilineal or sister's sons matrilineal. As Western concepts of ownership and formal inheritance codes become more entrenched, individual ownership of land is becoming increasingly common.
Heirship disputes between those claiming individual ownership and those claiming usufruct rights through descent are not uncommon given the competing forms of ownership. Formal legal codes and courts often handle these disputes and govern the disposal of property in cases of intestate succession. Kin Groups. Kinship in Micronesia extends far beyond the confines of the domestic unit. Systems of descent vary considerably between and within states.
On the main island of Yap, people have affiliations with both a localized, patrilineal land estate and a geographically dispersed matrilineal clan. Chuukese and outer islanders of Yap are organized into matrilineal lineages and clans that share rights to land. Matrilineal clans are also found on Pohnpei where their influence has diminished as a result of acculturation. In Kosrae, descent is reckoned bilaterally, creating ego-focused kindreds. Though built on principles of descent, these extended kinship ties are validated and legitimized by performance, including the sharing of land, food, and resources.
Infant Care. Children are highly valued in the FSM. They are considered to be a family's source of wealth and insurance for parents in old age. For this reason, parents create a nurturing environment and indulge infant needs.
Although mothers are the primary caregivers, fathers and older siblings also tend to infants. They also receive a great deal of attention from extended kin and neighbors. Because of the importance of interaction in small island communities, infants are carried facing outwards, away from the holder.
Infants typically nurse on demand and may be breast-fed for a number of years. Cosleeping with parents is the norm. Child Rearing and Education. The transmission of cultural values and expectations begins early in the socialization of children. Children are taught to be cooperative, generous, sharing, and respectful. Discipline, in the form of shaming and ridicule, is often administered by family members and the community at large, but corporal punishment is the prerogative of parents.
Education of children involves a combination of formal schooling and informal acquisition of gender-related knowledge and skills. In the past, the transmission of lore and skills was an important ct of growing up in a subsistence household.
Today, formal education is mandatory and most children attend grade school between the ages of five and fourteen. Higher Education. Greater participation in the market economy places a premium on higher education in the FSM. More and more families are sending children to high school and college with the hopes of providing them greater access to employment. Since the s, the percentage of citizens over 25 years of age with education beyond grade school has increased from 25 to 47 percent.
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High school enrollment is near 70 percent of both males and females between the ages of 14 and College enrollment lags far behind elementary and high school rates. Only 27 percent of males and females between the ages of 18 and 21 attend college.
Most of these students are enrolled at branch campuses of the College of Micronesia, while a limited number receive scholarships to study at colleges in the United States. Rules of etiquette among Micronesians focus on displays of respect related to kinship, gender, age, political rank, and religious title.
Brothers and sisters should avoid one another in public and refrain from telling bawdy jokes or making sexual remarks in each other's presence. Among matrilineal societies, respect for one's mother's brother is marked by the use of polite language and physical avoidance on formal occasions. Women show respect for their husbands by walking behind them in public or serving them first during meals.
Although members of the same sex may hold hands as a sign of friendship, public displays of affection between males and females are extremely rare. Further, men and women usually occupy separate social spaces during church services and community gatherings. Older members of society as well as titled persons enjoy an exulted position of respect, and may be given first shares of a feast distribution or special seats during public gatherings.
In addition to demonstrating age, gender, and political status, food etiquette illustrates the importance of generosity in Micronesian cultures. Sharing food with visitors is a must, and hosts take pride in providing sustenance to others.
Guests are usually fed first and are expected to eat in moderation. Compliments paid to the host center on the host's generosity and the experience of satiation. Fathers and mothers equally tend to children in Micronesian society.
In public, people tend to speak cautiously and avoid confrontation with others. Gossip is an ever-present check on disrespectful or inappropriate public behavior. Religious Beliefs. Missionization of the region began in the mids. Prior to the arrival of Christianity, beliefs focused on the activity of ancestral souls, a pantheon of deities, and the numerous spirits, both kind and malevolent, that inhabited the earth, sea, and sky. Today, roughly half of the population is Catholic and half belong to various Protestant sects, most notably the United Church of Christ Congregational.
Although Christianity has largely replaced the traditional animistic systems of belief, elements of pre-Christian belief systems are interwoven with ecclesiastical practice. Many Micronesians still believe in the power of deceased ancestors to influence events and the existence of spirits and spirit possession.
Religious Practitioners. Prior to Christian conversion, island societies relied on a variety of religious specialists to mediate between the natural and supernatural world.
The men who held these positions were responsible for a variety of tasks including divination, healing, navigation, weather control, and bringing about propitious events such as victory in battle and abundant harvests. Although specialists with supernatural skills are still employed from time to time, the majority of formal religious practitioners are members of Catholic and Protestant churches. Practitioners in both faiths are ordained by the formal ecclesiastical organizations. Protestant churches feature a hierarchy of religious titles for which members of each congregation compete.
Rituals and Holy Places. The ritual cycle of Christian churches dominates the organization of community activity in many parts of Micronesia. Elements of traditional culture, such as competitive feasting and the harvest of first fruits, have been incorporated into church calendars. People can be found preparing for, or celebrating, a church-related event almost every day.
Churches are the primary holy places and are often the most conspicuous buildings in Micronesian communities. Even so, many places associated with legendary or historical events are considered sacred.
Such sites may have an inherent power relating to the past, or may be the abode of spirits. Death and the Afterlife. Death is an occasion for great feasting in all island societies of the FSM.
Each culture has specific mourning rites and observances that are integrated with Christian beliefs and rituals. In general, the first feast, associated with intense mourning and the burial itself, lasts between three and four days.
The body is usually interred on ancestral land or in the church cemetery. On some islands, formal mourning among close kin and friends may continue for a number of months. At the end of this period another feast may be held by the immediate family to recognize the assistance of those who observed the mourning rites. Death anniversaries are commonly celebrated and may involve community-wide feasts or small family gatherings.
The rich diversity of indigenous beliefs concerning the afterlife have largely been replaced by the Christian emphasis on heaven and hell.
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