Bride Price Payment
Bride price or bride wealth is the amount of money or property paid to the parents of a woman for the right to marry her. They were earlier called bride gifts. It’s the opposite of dowry where the woman’s family give a gift of money, goods, property or other valuable to the groom. The price may be as little as a small sum of money or as much as a single piece of livestock or even a herd of livestock. This all depends on local traditions and the expectations and agreements between the families involved. Early records of Bride price practice are contained in the code of Hammurabi, Talmud and the Hebrew Bible. However there is great possibility that this practice had been going on far in many cultures before the record we have of it.
Even now the act of giving bride price is still being actively practiced in many countries in Asia and Africa especially in some part of Nigeria, Thailand, China though the amount changing hands is more a token amount to continue the traditional ritual than an actual price-tag attached to the bride-to-be for marriage. This is quite different to the bride service act performed among other regions of the world, including the Native Amazonian peoples especially in Peru by the Urarina.
Bride-price is not a payment for women, but rather is seen as a way of valuing the labour of women, the effort involved by the bride's family in raising the female, and the labour value of a woman's children. It is a show of appreciation to the bride’s family. The payment is a way of securing the rights of the husband's group over the woman's children. Although women are valued in these societies, their status compared to men's is lower because it is the men who make the corporate household decisions. Even when the women are allowed in the discussion, the men always have the final say.
Bride prices have been traditional cultural practice for centuries, upheld by many communities across Africa and Asia. Traditionally, bridal price which were earlier called bride gifts were to bring two families together, to unite them through the love of two young people following a long courtship. As I earlier said, it was given freely by the prospective husband to the bride's family as a token of appreciation. It was compulsory and was certainly not expected by the bride's family. It was symbolic. There was no price tag attached to asking a girl to marry you.
Bride Price Today
Today, everything has changed. Bride price is no longer seen as a gift but a price tag on the lady’s head. It is now a demand by the woman’s family. Some families see their daughter as a source of income and therefore demand exorbitant prices which have reduced the young ladies to commodities in the eyes of their husband and his family. Today bride price isn't just a goat, it's a list of demands for money, animals or clothing made by fathers, uncles and older brothers, who might want to throw in requests for new shoes or school fees.
It is also an indication of how high the male gender is rated in comparison to the female gender. This so called list has no input from any female member of the family. The mother gets nothing because she was more or less purchased herself, and the sisters are ignored too as they are all set to be exchanged for commodities when they reach a the marriageable age. In most countries that age can be as low as when the child is still in her mothers’ womb.
Now the question is: Is Bride Price doing more harm than good? Most countries practicing this act are countries still struggling with male dominance. In this respect, should the act of bride price be one of the traditional values that should be erased. I’ll say yes, but maybe not erased. I believe we should all look back to the reason behind this culture and try to bring back the values they were supposed to uphold. Bride Price should be indeed Bride Gift, a gift in appreciation to the brides’ family for the good job they did in bringing up the bride. The Grooms family are also to see this as a great opportunity to show gratitude to the bride’s family.