26 May 2018

Africa: Is It Time for Us to Do Away With Bride Price?

opinion

A few days ago, Noura Hussein, a 19-year old Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death by a court in Omdurman for stabbing to death the man to whom she was forcibly married as he was in the process of raping her.

She had been with him for six days when he raped her the first time with the assistance of his brother and two cousins. When he attempted to rape her again the following day, she stabbed him.

There are a lot of things that are wrong with this scenario. First, there is the forced marriage which should never have happened.

Then there is the worrying fact that men from Noura's community, like many the world over, are a long way from understanding the concept of sexual consent.

These two are issues that at least society is talking about. Issues about which there is awareness.

From stories of many women I have interacted with, bride price, or the attitudes that society today has towards it, is a big source of physical and sexual violence in Kenyan marriages today. I believe that a lot of men in these forced marriages like Noura's, feel like they own these women because they have paid for them.

BRIDE PRICE

I know enough women whose partner's attitudes towards sex changed as soon as they had paid bride price for their wives. Their partners stopped asking and began taking at will. One woman I encountered not very long was in the process of securing a loan to pay bride price for herself.

She had quit an abusive marriage only for her father to demand that she either goes back so that the man can pay her bride price or to pay the bride price herself.

The bride price may have been a well-intentioned tradition acting as a platform for families to build friendship but it has grown into something else today. Something unpleasant.

It's the excuse that fathers are using to place price tags on the heads of their daughters. And they will haggle with their future in laws until the 'right' price is agreed upon.

It is the excuse that many men are using to abuse their wives. "But I paid for your bride price. What do you mean you are not in the mood for sex?" they will ask. Or "I paid for you. You need to do everything I want." The more money he 'paid' the more he owed by this woman he feels.

The whole affair has become commercialised. The price tags are going up fast. I'm not sure that we can change the mindset of society. Bring back the good intentions that this practice was built on. We may be far too gone.

If you ask me, it's time that we did away with the quantification of women and the exchange of money. It's 2018. It's time we let weddings, even traditional ones, just be coming together of families and celebrations of love and not business dealings.

Newlywed couples have enough to worry about without adding the weight of outrageous financial demands to it.

Kenya

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