{Benin City, Nigeria Local Time}
Bookmark and Share

Between Poverty, Bride Price And Violence 

November 7, 2018

“I paid your bride price.” This has become a common exclamation whenever six out of ten men in Africa get an opportunity to test their muscles on their partners. For many African families, dowry has become a long leash by which an erring wife is beaten into the sanity box. For others too, dowry is a tether to chain her to her partner’s every whim, or to strangle her for her ‘self-effacement’ and her deliberate refusal to pander to his manly desires, and, often times, most of such desires are “bestial, loathsome orgies”, according to several reports.

One Ugandan woman, Khendileze quipped: “I always have the feeling that he gets me heavy with a child through my mouth and not through the birth canal because every time he wants to have his way, he forces his manhood into my mouth. The day I almost choked and bit him, he violently took me to the extent I bled. He raped me and used his leash to tear my body all over. I don’t like what he does, and anytime I voice it out, he says he paid my bride price and that if I threaten to leave him, of course I do, my family would return the money or he would burn our family house, or kill my father and me. Why must he always want to have his way while die in silence?” Kendhileze wished for an answer. Would she ever get an answer?

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, says…”bride price, also known as bride token, is an amount of money, property or other form of wealth paid by a groom or his family to the parents of the woman he has just married or is just about to marry (compare dowry, which is paid to the groom, or used by the bride to help establish the new household, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage). The bride price agreed may or may not be intended to reflect the perceived value of the woman. The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price. Many cultures practiced bride price prior to existing records.

In anthropological literature, bride price has often been explained in market terms, as payment made in exchange for the bride’s family’s loss of her labor and fertility within kin group.

The bride price may be seen as related to present-day customs of maintenance for the wife in the event of the break up of marriage, and family maintenance in the event of the husband not providing adequately for the wife in his will. Another function performed by the amount was to provide a discentive for the husband to divorce his wife: he would need to have a certain amount to be able to pay the wife.
An evolutionary psychology explanation for dowry and bride price is that bride price is common in polygamous societies which have a relative scarcity of available women. In monogamous societies where women have little personal wealth, dowry is instead common since there is a relative scarcity of wealthy men who can choose from many potential women when marrying”.
–  Now, away from Wiki’s wealth of wits, Khendileze’s an0 11 12swer may well come from how African men view the bride price: Is it bride price or pride price? Is it paid for and purchased or customary formality for winning a soul mate? Most African men think it’s the former. A respondent in South Africa, cornered by our CSO partners there, said, with all appearances of seriousness, that if he finds a woman and loves her and expresses his intention to wed her, and then her family comes up with a long list of items which includes a monetary payment on her, “that tells me I have just purchased another piece of item like China ware, and if that item does not serve the purpose for which I bought it, I know just how to deal with it, and please don’t ask me!”
Now, that is nerve-wracking! That has a landmine effect! What is the place of the tinkling for tradition and customs as being the way of life of a people which they would want to bequeath as legacies for their children and for posterity?

Terfa Kwaghager, from Makurdi, Benue State wrote the writer through whatssap: “Our customs and traditions are okay for keeps, I mean, it wouldn’t be interesting to just pick a woman on the road and both of you are man and wife without some rites, which I call ‘rites of entrance’, done at a traditional setting, or her family place.

That is okay. What I find repulsive is when families keep a tab on a certain amount and refuse to baulk at it. Most times it is very high, and every time they keep tampering with it. I don’t think that is good. An item of culture should not be tampered with at all. Nigerians are like that, everything is like trading on the stock market, even their own children are not left out. In some other African cultures, a penny is a penny all day and any day. If it was cowry in the 17th century, it is still a cowry today as bride price. That does not mean a man should not honour his wife. The money should not be a factor, it is the relationship between two equal partners. If money is placed between them, a common man becomes angry afterwards”.

Does Kwaghager’s statement ring the bell of economic insufficiency on the part of the man? Don’t wealthy men pay equal bride price as their downtrodden counterparts? Prince James Okogie, from Edo State thinks so: “It’s poverty that makes a man think families keep changing bride price. The bride price is mostly unwritten and subject to negotiation. The families come together before the bigger social event and the elders rub minds on the issue. I have never seen where they turned a prospective in-law away because of his inability to pay. The issue here is how does that make a man treat his wife violently? It is the poverty of the mind of such man. He takes out his steam of frustration on her because of other issues, and he starts to imagine that he has paid so much on her as bride price. That is his failure to be a man. How much did he pay? 20, 50, 100 thousand naira? Most times, the bride price is a token! A violent man who wants it back should be booted out! He does not deserve her!”

For Civil Society Organisations, bride price plays a significant role in perpetuating violence against adolescent girls, originating from the girl’s husband and his family. “Having received a price for her”, our CSO Partner, Girl Child Initiative Co-ordinator for South-South, Mariam Ajayi, stated, “the girl’s family may put her under pressure to stay with or return to her violent husband, so that they do not have to return the bride price. We have documented evidence pertaining to this, and we have said it in many of our community outreaches”.

What is the way forward? Ajayi says it is for the whole essence of marriage to be well-defined by all stakeholders. “Prospective couples and their families, even the society at large, should know why they want marriage for themselves and their children and wards. When the motive is right, violence will be out of the question, although violence itself is a big issue outside the poverty line!!

Comment Box is loading comments...
Edo Royalty Photos