By Eugene Bassey Etim
Understanding Bride Price In Africa Traditional Marriage, the African culture is characterized by a variety of rites and belief systems.
When it comes to marriage, that is, a man and a woman coming to agree to spend their whole life together as husband and wife
There are certain rites and requirements to fulfill, these marital rites vary from one tribe to the other across hundreds to thousands of tribes, cultures, and religious beliefs in Africa
For example in Nigeria, by way of custom, the man is traditionally required to pay or present several things required from him by the lady’s family.
These material requirements are usually itemized in what is referred to as Traditional Marriage LIST or simple is LIST. As a practice, until the man perform this traditional marriage rite, the marriage is seen as either illegitimate or anti-cultural
However, some persons have misunderstood the concept of the “bride price”. They think that the bride price is only the sum of money paid to the woman’s family by the prospective husband who is the man.
But, on the contrary, that is not what explains the accurate meaning of bride price in the true African traditional context.
In Africa, the bride price comes with other rites. In some cases, it comes with a long list. This list is sometimes called the bride’s list. Yes, this list usually contains the amount of money which the man must pay as the “price of the bride” to the lady’s family.
One point would need to make clear. And that is, there’s a difference between bride price and dowry. So what is the bride price?
The Bride Price
Bride price can be described as a list of items required to be paid by a prospective husband to the family of the woman he intends to marry.
While dowry has to do with the things which the family of the bride offers to the woman and her husband to support the startup of their new home.
In the Nigerian setting, the bride price consists of both monetary and non-monetary items required to be presented by the groom and his kinsmen to the family of the bride. It’s a customary fundamental demand.
Interestingly, some persons have argued that the idea of paying a long list of items just for a marital rite is rather unnecessary. Whilst some individuals view it as a symbol of honor to the woman, others have judged the practice as weird – if not savage.
To some folks, they think that payment of bride price is a patriarchal system or mentality where it is said that the man is buying the woman, more or less.
In Nigeria, the cost of satisfying marital rites or their demands varies from tribe to tribe.
Arguably, in some tribes or families, the bride price is made to look like an opportunity to extort from the other party. It is evident when we see a list of marital rites that comes in hundreds of thousands and even millions in some cases just for one woman or a single marriage.
Amusingly, some prospective suitors or husband-to-be gentlemen have cried out that the high demand in bride price is a deterrent to their decision to pick a wife.
They complain that most of the time the price is too high for what they can afford.
In some instances too, those single ladies with expensive bride price tags have been made to remain longer than necessary as spinsters.
There’s also a feeling of inferiority complex to those women whose bride price was never paid when they come across their female counterparts who brag about the payment of their bride price.
We have also seen how the high cost of bride price has brought some beautiful relationships to an end. And also how some gentlemen have lost the women they would have married to another man who is the highest bidder.
- Which is why questions are sometimes asked: “is it necessary that bride price be paid in marriage?
- Should it be cheap or expensive?
- Is a good marriage determined by the expensiveness of the bride price?
But, despite how the bride price is made costly in some tribes, some men have muscled the courage to look away from the disadvantaged side of the culture, to do the needful
Especially when love and feeling between the man and the woman are involved.
Interestingly, some women have said openly that the payment of their bride price by their husbands gives them a sense of pride and meaning to their womanhood.
They describe it as just a commitment and sign of seriousness. In this case, an essential commitment. A prerequisite.
Meanwhile, sometimes the man tends to brag at the woman especially during those times when a misunderstanding arises. He would say to her: “after all, I married you…I paid your bride price.”
Some cultures in Nigeria maintain that any woman whose bride price is not paid is not considered married – until it’s paid. Here, the bride price is seen as an official recognition that a woman is lawfully married according to custom and tradition.
Another side to this norm is that in some traditions, there’s a long list of things you have to do for the community, which is completely different from paying the bride price.
For example, the youth, women association, etc. All of these things MUST be completed before the groom is allowed to take the woman as his wife.
Emphatically, some tribes do not joke with this. In other words, if you fail to fulfill the requirements, you’re more or less like an outcast.
Which is another thing that is called to question. How can two people fall in love and another party becomes the determining factor of how they should go ahead with the marriage and how not, some may ask
It is worthy of note, the fact that the bride price is rather symbolic. And not an article for trade. After all, no human being can be quantified nor priced.
It only expresses the degree of treasure placed on the woman that is so love. Meaning that it doesn’t translate into outright purchasing of the individual.
That’s the reason why in some cases, the token of the bride price is usually returned to the husband by the lady’s family. Which suggests that the lady is not sold out.
When a man pays the bride price of the lady he loves and intends to marry, it symbolizes respect to the lady and shows responsibility on the man on the other hand.
It’s a win-win thing. When a man pays the bride price, he is also creating the impression that the lady is not cheap. He values the love and affection they both share.
Although marital bliss afterward is not determined by how huge or cheap the bride price is. Yet, the importance of this rite cannot be over-emphasized. It’s a necessity. It’s pivotal.
In summary, payment of bride price signifies maturity too. It also indicates a readiness to take up responsibility. It suggests that the man is willing to cater for his home.
To provide for his wife ensure her wellbeing, because the critical aspect of the marital rite is the bride price and it is one thing that is widely acceptable to solidify marriage.
Nonetheless, those cultures with a long list of bride prices should be moderated to suit the groom’s pocket. In the end, what is expedient is the joy that comes to the marriage after the fulfillment of the necessities.
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