Dowry: Which Way Forward?

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Dowry, which is extensively practiced in Africa, is a payment made by the groom to the family of the bride while seeking her hands in marriage. In the Southern part of Africa, it is called “lobola.” While it is known as, “Mahari” or “wine-carrying” in the East and West Africa respectively. Dowry is not limited to Africa; it is practised globally. While some have argued that dowry is part of our tradition, handed over to us by our forefathers; therefore, according to this group, we must keep the tradition. Others believe that traditions are made by people as such, bad traditions must be replaced or modified.

Other opponents of dowry think that the practice simply defines women, as a property, good or possession, as such, husbands see their wives as such after spending much money on their heads. These husbands, therefore, treat their wives as second goods.

Not everyone sees it that way. Some argue that when you pay much for something, you value it more. Hum!! “Something.” “It.” Ok!

Yet some disagree. They allege that dowry puts unnecessary pressure on women who are not married. It makes the women believe they are cheap, it is said. Some of them allegedly marry unwanted husbands rather than staying home unmarried.

The pressure is not limited to women. Some poor men are unfairly put under excessive pressure because they cannot afford the high dowry costs. These men may have found their right partners, but cannot marry them due to the high cost of a dowry.  Some think this is unfair.

On the other hand, some parents think that dowry, in fact, helps women to acquire more respect. Blessed – and indeed respected – are those women, whose dowry is paid on their heads! Moreover, some parents do not neglect the economic side of the dowry. The more girls parents have, the more in-laws –  and thus, more wealth from the dowry – they have. I hear you!!!

You now understand why I want 12 daughters! A female football team wouldn’t hurt, would it? Haha!

You see, Africa is full of irony and opportunities. Ironically, tyrannical men who used to beat up their innocent wives mercilessly, for giving birth to a baby girl (think of an incubation machine or genetically modified product) instead of a boy simply because they valued a boy more than a girl, have suddenly, realized another potential business opportunity from having many girls. The magic monitory power of the dowry!!

Recently, due to the economic malaise, the payment of the “bride price” has become a challenge that necessitated a change of approach towards the dowry custom. It has been reported that the Marry -Now – And –Pay- later dowry arrangement has been introduced in some parts of Botswana to make it easy for grooms facing an economic downturn to still marry. The arrangement equally helps many women to get married quickly rather than staying home, yawning for attention whenever a man passes by, due to the huge dowry costs. A win-win – situation, isn’t it?


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