Should the Bride Price be Abolished in Nigeria
The question of bride price and other traditional marriage rites leave people with different opinions on the subject. While some support the tradition, others feel it should be scrapped but before we delve into the matter we need to know the origin of this practice and the reason behind it.
History of Bride Price
Marriage by purchase was the most commonly practised form of betrothal in historical African society and women were regarded as goods, or gifts. Interestingly, paying bride price isn’t just an African tradition but is also practised in many Asian countries and in the Middle East.
In Nigeria, there’s no uniform or fixed amount of bride price as it varies from one tribe to another. Even within similar tribes especially in the south East, the bride price isn’t the same.
Bride price is a sum of money or quantity of goods given to a bride’s family by that of the groom. In many parts of Nigeria especially the South-East, the bride price must be paid first in order for the couple to get permission to marry in church or in other civil ceremonies, or the marriage is not considered valid by the bride’s family. In some parts of Nigeria when a child is born where the bride price of the woman has not been paid, the child belongs to the woman’s family even when he eventually pays the bride price of the woman. I actually know a couple that this happened to.
In a situation whereby the groom is unable to meet up to the requirements of the bride for whatever reason, both families can reach an agreement in which he pays whatever he owes within a specified period of time.
Are Women Actually being Sold Using the Bride Price?
One of my insomnia episodes (let me say I slept a lot that afternoon) I stumbled on a radio station Max FM, interestingly this topic was being discussed on air in the midnight show.
A woman who’s age we couldn’t tell but mentioned that she has been married for a long time stated that paying bride price was a way African men subjugate women. A man who claimed to be a women’s advocate also supported her stating that the trend should be abolished as this has contributed more to domestic violence and abuse in most marriages in Nigeria (I don’t know how true this is and will leave it as it is).
An elderly man strongly supported the tradition and maintained that the man isn’t required to provide all of the listed requirements. He also said it depends on the woman”s family. Another man called in support adding that it shows he honours the woman. He reiterated that the concept of bride price is a show of love and not ownership.
Okay let me digress a bit…
Did you see the viral post about a man that had to pay ₦580k for the traditional marriage rite even as a low salary earner? Instances like this can make a man distance himself from that family when he eventually marries the woman and I don’t blame the man. My dad of blessed memories always ensured that we visited my maternal home the years we travelled as a family for Christmas. We spent Christmas at Awka then the New Year at Umuahia, my maternal home. This was possible because of the way my mum’s family handled the bride price and other marriages rites.
The Controversies Surrounding the Bride Price
I would have loved to say that paying bride price is a cultural heritage especially in Africa and should still be upheld. We cannot lose what makes us unique to embrace a different culture introduced by the westerners. However in recent times this culture has been commercialized.
The practice is like a means to commodify women and show class. Many men have been forced to break up with the woman they truly love and wanted to spend the rest of their life with because of the expensive bride price or were even forced to do the unthinkable just to meet up with the requirement. There was an incidence in October 2019, where a 17-year old girl in Zamfara set herself ablaze over her boyfriend’s inability to pay her bride price.
Critical voices across Africa including popular writer and feminist Chimamanda Adichie, some scholars, activists and public intellectuals have begun to condemn the act of paying bride price.
Do you support the idea that bride price should be abolished? How’s the bride price requirements where you’re from? For the married folks how did you handle it? Your unreserved opinion and comments would be highly appreciated. Waiting for you in the comment section.