|Some pay it in hard cash (image courtesy of pexels.com)|
Bride price is a common cultural practice amongst many African societies; it is a system that is traditionally used to validate customary marriages in African societies. I am sure the intentions were noble when the ancestors sat down to come up with the terms and conditions for bride price negotiations. But over time and with modernity I personally feel that this is an outdated tradition that has been overtaken by greed and has lost its place in the modern society we find ourselves in. Traditions like many other things are always evolving not static meaning they can be changed to suit evolving times and situations. Imagine forcing a diabetic to drink a cupful of sugar for whatever reason, because it has always been the tradition in your culture, not considering the health risks that come with it? Do you get my point? The same way elders in the past sat down and decided that for a marriage to be valid a woman needed to be “paid for” is the same way elders of today can sit down and decide otherwise.
This post has been at the back of my mind for a long time but was recently triggered by a YouTube video from one of my favourites, click here, who shared a story about the ridiculous amounts her prospective groom is expected to fork out in the name of bride price. I for one have no intention of having any bride price paid for me or my daughters should I have them, my family, relatives and friends who think otherwise will just have to deal with it. After all I am the one who will be getting married if and when I choose to, not them. Some people argue that a man paying bride price is showing appreciation to the bride’s family for having raised her. I didn’t know people had children with the intention of later being appreciated in life for raising them! Is it not parental responsibility to raise one's children? And if that is the case then why isn’t the bride’s family appreciating the groom’s family for raising him too? Or did he fall down from the sky. If that is the argument, then this form of appreciation should go both ways, appreciate both families lets have a bride and groom price.
For me bride price has more negative effects for women than whatever positive effects are perceived by bride price crusaders. Many women stay in abusive marriages in many instances because their families cannot afford to refund the ridiculous bride price they asked for. Oh I bet some of you didn’t know that in the event of a separation/divorce, the bride price or part of it for most African societies is supposed to be refunded. I have only ever heard of one instance in my networks where this was actually done when the couple divorced. It was a whole event both families went back to the village and whatever refund that was to be done was done. Kudos to them! In some African societies a divorced woman cannot have a new suitor pay her bride price before the old one is refunded. In other words, for you to get an exchange at the store the old item has to be returned – do you see how this is demeaning to women? Listen some families in some parts of the African continent even hold on to corpses of dead women until their bride price has been fully paid, if it hadn’t been before. How crazy is that! it get's even crazier in this story click here, a father was asked to refund his dead daughter's bride price in order to be allowed to bury her!
|Some pay it in the form of livestock converted to cash (image courtesy of pexels.com)|
Stories abound of men telling their wives “I paid your bride price, I own you, you must do this and that” basically these men see their wives as commodities that they purchased from the family market and can do with as they wish. There are societies in the African continent where girls as young as 11yrs old from poor families are married off to rich old men in their 60s, so their families can use their bride price as a poverty alleviation scheme. Elders actually haggle during negotiations as to the value of their daughter, the more educated she is the higher the bride price. There are instances in some African communities, where if the girl already has a child (especially if it was with someone else and not the person paying the bride price) then her price goes down because she is “damaged goods”. Such practices equate women to commodities for purchase, you might as well put the bride on the shelf of a supermarket with a tag that says “price subject to negotiations" on her neck. I mean it’s the same concept.
Thankfully there is an emerging trend of more progressive African parents out there who are rejecting the whole bride price concept. I know of a first-hand account where the father insisted that his daughter was not for sale but his kinsmen kept insisting that they have to follow tradition. So the father played along to keep the peace, this is a community where bride price is in the form of livestock usually cows or goats converted to cash (apparently to suit modern times, how ironic). So on the D-day the groom and his people presented the cheque for the agreed cash equivalent to the bride’s father. The bride’s father accepted the cheque thanked his in-laws and then proceeded to hand over the cheque to his daughter and new son in law and told them that was his gift to them to start their new life! Love it absolutely love it! The kinsmen who were awaiting their cut from the bride price were livid! We need more fathers like that. Hopefully more parents will follow suit and reject this bride price concept all together.
Like I said at the beginning tradition evolves it is not static meaning it changes with time. So how about we embrace a new way of validating customary marriages, how about instead of paying for wives we exchange gifts of equal value between families, how about we exchange gifts from our lands if the grooms people are a rice growing community and the girl’s family from a potato growing community how about each family comes with a sack full of the fruits of their lands; a sack of rice from the grooms side and a sack of potatoes from the girls side and exchange that to cement the marriage traditionally? How about new ways of cementing African traditional marriages that do not demean women, put them at risk for domestic violence because they were “paid for” or risk of child/early marriages because the parents see it as a way out of poverty. How about that?
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