The dependence of stability in marriage on sanctions is illustrated by a particular abuse of which I came across several examples. Women normally pay routine visits to their natal home. In a number of instances, including one wife in each village in which I worked, the wife's father simply took advantage of such a visit to marry his daughter to someone else. He collected a bride price, and sent little or no trousseau, so he was certainly in pocket. In all the cases of which I heard people denied that there had been any kind of quarrel and the husbands declared themselves surprised, defrauded, and angry.
In the Sakaltutan case the wife in question was the second of two coeval wives, brought in with the active help of the barren first wife; she had borne a son. She herself was the only literate woman in the village, and coming from the nahiye centre to which Sakaltutan had previously belonged, regarded the village as uncivilised. In spite of his public indignation, the husband was left with his first wife, a less quarrelsome and expensive home, and a son, so he did not suffer unduly.
In all the other cases the wife was already herself a widow or divorcee before the marriage which she thus abandoned. I have no means of knowing whether the initiative came from unhappy wives or greedy fathers. One man had done this twice with the same daughter, and my informant unequivocally blamed his greed.
In all cases of this type the normal sanctions were more or less inoperative. The three households concerned, those of the two husbands and the woman's father, were separated by considerable physical and social distance, so that gossip in the first husband's village was a matter of indifference to the father and the new husband. Violence was not attempted, partly perhaps because in these cases honour was no longer pristine, but mainly because an attempt to use force in a strange village would be suicidal. The marriages had been arranged to provide a replacement, primarily a housekeeper, and the affinal link between husband and father-in-law was socially unimportant. The wronged husbands had no remedy.
These cases are perhaps more remarkable for their rarity than for their occurrence. They are only possible because when the normal built-in sanctions fail, the formal system can provide no alternative; its rules and institution are irrelevant.