The Barrayaran family is the social minimum unit, and it is based on the nuclear families model, although with several features of the extended family; on Sergyar and Komarr the family is almost exclusively of the nuclear model, although on Sergyar it largely depends on the family's origins.
The average Barrayaran family extends beyond the immediate family, consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all living nearby or in the same household: it is regarded as a positive feature the fact of being capable of living together, especially far away from major urban centres. These families include, in one household, near relatives in addition to a immediate family, especially if the elderly parents move in with children due to old age.
The Barrayaran familial attitude is underlined even by dances: Barrayaran dances are strictly male-female partner steps. The Barrayaran society is based upon, at all its levels, on family and personal connections: merit is sought, but the social structure is made up of family ties, both for the prole of the Caravanserai and for the government of a backcountry District. An individual without a family, or son of a prostitute is relegated to society margins. However, a more individualistic approach is spreading, due to both military service, which is an opportunity for redemption, and to the new galactic values, spread among the city middle-upper class people.
The Barrayaran culture inherits Western and Russian values about marriage. It is considered the most intimate of human relationships, essentially a gift, and a high-valued institution; therefore, civil laws recognize marriage as having social and political statuses. On Barrayar, the Bride and Groom marry themselves: the minimum is Bride, Groom and witnesses.
Because the low population, marriage is highly honoured and affirmed: although it is not a strict and binding duty, it is suggested that it is appropriate for everyone. In order to keep the certainty of the lineage, the sex is considered to be reserved for marriage, especially within the Vor class, although in recent decades moral surveillance has been relaxed. While shifting towards an egalitarian view of the family, especially in urban centres but also in some country areas, the Barrayaran traditional culture sees the family as rooted on a complementary mood: the husband is charged of the headship and the wife of a intelligent, willing co-operation.
One in eleven families on Barrayar experiences domestic violence: in most backward areas, violence is still viewed not as a crime but as a private matter between the spouses. On Komarr and, to a lesser degree, on Sergyar, the domestic violence is far less spread and on Komarr there are some laws protecting women.
A Baba is a traditional Barrayaran profession originating back from the Time of Isolation: a baba was issued from the male suitor's family to formally propose to the potential bride. During the period of betrothal, the baba serves as a mediator between the families and as a chaperone between all meetings between the two suitors, who formally remain segregated until the wedding. Part of the purpose of the baba is to maintain a formalized, chaste relationship between the pair to ensure any children born early would provably not be the future groom's. After the Time of Isolation, the Baba's role diminished, changing from being mainly a mediator to that of a wedding planner. The modern perception of hiring a baba is essentially viewed as an unnecessary and romantic chivalry. On some occasions, like some Vor or Armsmen wedding asks for permission, a Baba is still required by law. The liege-lord has to grill the Baba as to the suitability of the suitor she represents; the Baba is sent bobbing back twice to the Armsman or subordinated Vor's liege-commander, to personally check and guarantee his continued employment prospects and personal hygiene and absence of head-lice. After the favourable opinion (almost always previously gained), the Armsman or the subordinated Vor formally asks the permission.
Barrayaran Babas are all old women, chosen for their wisdom and planning ability. The traditional wearing of a Baba in her functions consists of a scarf flipped into a triangle and tied around head. The head scarf is a traditional female wear, and in modern days the more flowers are embroidered, the more senior is the Baba wearing the scarf. Babas are often associated into District Guilds, but these unions are completely unofficial and without public sanction.
Barrayaran traditionalists hold to a hierarchical structure between husband and wife. Men and women are considered to have different gender-specific roles that allow each to complement the other. While the husband and wife are of equal worth before the community, husbands and wives are given different functions and responsibilities that are based on gender, and that male leadership is ordained so that the husband is always the senior authority figure. The Tradition presents the Emperor being the head of the Count; the Count is the head of man, man is the head of woman, and parents are the head of their children. However, the inferior is not the servant of the superior, but a companion, so that obedience is wanting in neither honour nor dignity.
Extended family Edit
Since some decades ago, the most popular multi-generational household have been consisting of grandparents moving in with an adult child's family, usually for care-giving reasons. The workload is shared among the members: roles of women are viewed as to be primarily focused on that of housewife and this usually involves cooking, cleaning, and organizing for the entire family. The patriarch of the family lays down some rules and arbitrates disputes while other senior members of the household babysit infants in case their mother is working. Due to the fact that families have the exclusive responsibility of raising and educating children, at least until the beginning of mandatory schools, senior members are also responsible in teaching the younger children their basic notions, such as tongue, manners, and etiquette. Grandparents often take the leading roles due to the fact that they have the most experience with parenting and maintaining a household, although this changes when they are retired, due to the lesser role in financially maintaining of the household. In more traditionalist regions, as well as within the Vor class, often parents live with the first-born and his spouse, as well as the children of both, while other children leave the house or remain in it unmarried.
Barrayaran orphans are mostly raised by their close relatives: parents' siblings or orphans' grandparents, or even cousins. If an orphan is without family, each District has its own orphanage system, which raise them until the age of twenty. Also military orphanages do exist, and provide a steady flow of career servicemen. If an abandoned child is found, it is considered as being an orphan, and then sent to local orphanage. Orphanage children are trained to get a job as soon as possible, but for those are suited for, the university is District or State funded: however, many of them choose the Imperial Service as their new family.
Abortion and unwilled pregnancy Edit
Since the coming of Nexus technology, the Barrayaran moral/legal duty to kill mutant babies and to practice abortion on mutant or deformed foetuses has been progressively eroded; nowadays, with under-population problems still existing, abortion on Barrayar is everywhere illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother. The availability of abortion services can be even more restricted in the absence of a readily available method of determining the circumstances in which an abortion might be lawfully obtained. Laws provide for a woman's right to an abortion if her life is at risk, including from suicide, and if there is not any uterine replicator as well as any alternative technology. The illegality of abortion is further strengthened by the availability of the uterine replicator, the advance that allows unborn human foetuses to be gestated in vitro, rather than in a woman's body. The right to travel in order to obtain a free-use uterine replicator is granted by several Imperial laws and almost all Northern Districts offer free stays and permits in order to encourage the pregnant woman to deliver the foetus through the replicator.
On Barrayar, genetic cleaning is a major use of the replicator. Defects in the zygote can be looked for and eliminated prior to birth, removing any genetic problems, such as diseases or inherited traits. Over the last century, the use of uterine replicators increased on Barrayar, coming to be a technology available also to lower classes, with all law systems providing at least one free replicator every fifty inhabitants, while on Komarr the uterine replicator use is merely kept free of Added value tax incomes.
Barrayaran lexicon includes a variety of terms related to the family, each varying according to the particular language spoken. However, there are several common concepts:
- Father: a male parent
- Mother: a female parent
- Son: a male child of the parents
- Daughter: a female child of the parents
- Brother: a male child of the same parents
- Sister: a female child of the same parents
- Grandfather: father of a father or mother
- Grandmother: mother of a mother or father
- Cousins: two people that share the same grandparents
- Grandfather: a parent's father
- Grandmother: a parent's mother
- Grandson: a child's son
- Granddaughter: a child's daughter
For collateral relatives, more classificatory terms come into play, terms that do not build on the terms used within the nuclear family:
- Uncle: father's brother, mother's brother, father's sister's husband, mother's sister's husband
- Aunt: father's sister, mother's sister, father's brother's wife, mother's brother's wife
- Nephew: brother's son, sister's son, husband's brother's son, husband's sister's son, wife's brother's son, wife's sister's son
- Niece: brother's daughter, sister's daughter, husband's brother's daughter, husband's sister's daughter, wife's brother's daughter, wife's sister's daughter
Such a system assumes that the mother's husband has also served as the biological father. The system refers to a child who shares only one parent with another child as a "half-brother" or "half-sister". For children who do not share biological or adoptive parents in common, it is used the term "stepbrother" or "stepsister" to refer to their new relationship with each other when one of their biological parents marries one of the other child's biological parents. Any person who marries the parent of that child becomes the "stepmother" or "stepfather".
LGBTQ rights and perception Edit
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and inter-sexual (LGBTQI) people on Barrayar face legal and social challenges and discrimination, while on Komarr there is no regard toward sexual orientation and on Sergyar laws are more relaxed. Same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private is formally criminalized in all legal system on Barrayar and for Barrayarans outside the planet, but de facto tolerated; on Komarr and Sergyar, there is not such prohibition. At the present state, there are no laws imposing equality of treatment on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Being formally criminalized on Barrayar, households headed by same-sex couples are completely ineligible for the legal protections available to families. Neither same-sex marriages nor civil unions of same-sex couples are allowed on Barrayar, while on Komarr consenting unions are completely free to be set up. Barrayaran transsexuals are allowed to change their physical and legal identity if a judicial commission deems the change is required for the individual's welfare, while on both Komarr and Sergyar they are allowed to to so freely.
Public opinion on Barrayar is very hostile toward homosexuality and the vast majority of the Barrayarans are also against same-sex marriage: Barrayar is socially very conservative on gay rights, with a large majority opposing any recognition of same-sex marriage and supporting laws discriminating against gay or other "deviant" sexual orientation people. Surveys find out that at least three quarters of Barrayarans said homosexuality should not be accepted by society. The average Barrayaran finds homosexuality always or almost always wrong, is in favour of making homosexual acts a criminal act and supports a legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Minor fringes say that gay people should be isolated from society or that they should be forced to undergo treatment.
Barrayaran larger cities, especially those with solid links with the Nexus society, are more tolerant and accepting. However, there is an heavy resistance and hostility to gay parades by both government and society. On Komarr, conversely, some social groups are influenced by the Barrayaran quite homophobic stance.
The whole Empire of Barrayar has a complete anti-gay and other propaganda laws set, but the heaviest burden is set up for the planet of Barrayar. Generally, laws against gay propaganda are aimed to prevent non-traditional and homosexual relationships ideas among minors. Even displaying LGBTQ symbols in public is illegal by the legislation. The average rhetoric is against gays and there are (especially in Barrayaran large cities, where the gay communities are quite large) violence and hate crimes.
Vorbarr Sultana Gay Pride is a demonstration of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and other persons (LGBTQI). The demonstration is intended to take place in late spring annually since 2957 in the Barrayaran capital Vorbarr Sultana, but since late 2980s it has been regularly banned by the Lord Governor of the City of Vorbarr Sultana. Nowadays the demonstrations are all accompanied by homophobic attacks, which sometimes are avoided by moving the site of the demonstration in the last minute. The police puts little or no effort to protect participants from homophobic attacks, also because the demonstration itself it is prohibited. Both the city government and the general population consistently oppose gay parades in the capital for a variety of reasons. Groups are accused of receiving grants from other Nexus powers (especially Beta Colony) for spreading their views on Barrayar.