Marriage: How much should dowry cost?

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Dr. Jacques Nzabonimpa, Director of Culture at RALC.

In Rwandan tradition, paying dowry was and is still a common practice which however has evolved over the years from just giving cows to money.

Currently, there are misconceptions over the importance and worth of dowry. There are some reports which claim dowry is one of the causes of domestic violence in the country because some people think that by paying dowry, it makes them own their spouses.

A recent research carried out jointly by Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC) and the Ministry of Sports and Culture showed that some men harass their wives because they paid a significant dowry while those who paid fewer dowries are mistreated by their wives accordingly.

The research aimed to find out the causes of rising rates of domestic violence and failing marriages in the country, according to Dr. Jacques Nzabonimpa, Director of Culture at RALC.

The issue was raised during the 2014 National Dialogue, Umushyikirano and one of its resolutions was taking measures to fight domestic violence, divorce and to know their causes.

According to the research, the value of dowry is dependent on the background of the girl, her education, job, and family, among others. The dowry may be one cow, more or less depending on the aforementioned conditions.

Dr. Nzabonimpa says that in Rwandan culture, dowry was never a problem because it was based on the consensus between the bride and groom’s families.

He says that people should avoid greed and not perceive dowry as a way to get rich.

“A dowry is a symbol and people can decide anything to be a symbol. Paying a dowry is not buying. It doesn’t determine a girl’s worth. A dowry is something that might not be fulfilled but marriage celebration goes ahead,” he said.

Dr. Nzabonimpa says, because of greed, many want to get rich through weddings by demanding expensive dowry, soliciting contributions from people they have no connections with. 

“The bride’s family tends to charge too much from the groom. Men are forced to take loans from banks and this triggers conflicts at home,” he said.

Gad Ngororano, 26, believes love must be above everything.

“For me the important thing for a marriage to be successful is love. People should be taught that love doesn’t cost anything. A dowry which culturally symbolizes recognition to the parents of the girl has become the price of the bride and usually goes high or low according to her level of education. For me, one cow should be the standard of dowry,” he said, explaining that the cost of the dowry causes young men to fear to tie the knot.

The research also cited other causes of failing marriages as materialism, family isolation, extramarital relationships, poor planning and modernity.

According to Pastor Ezra Mpyisi, the woes in the present-day families are not surprising.

“We should not be blaming the youth. Who raised them? The parents are not fulfilling their duties and children no longer get the right education. Moreover, they are growing up in a corrupt world,” he said.

“We are in Rwanda but not true Rwandans because the culture has been undermined,” he added

Francoise Uwumukiza, president of the National Women Council, faults bad mindset among the youth.

“Young people these days tend to boast and do great things. From paying an exorbitant dowry to organizing a classy wedding ceremony, they want to please onlookers.

“The youth must remember that a good home is caused by a good heart not a good dowry. Dowry is a valuable thing that unites the families but it should not be misconceived”.

“We conduct campaigns through Umugoroba w’ababyeyi, a program held at village level where married women advise young ladies about the true meaning of dowry and what it takes to have a successful marriage. We also use writings and media such as the women Magazine “Ni Nyampinga,” she said.

Mariya Yohana, 75, advises youth to seek advice from their elders.

“They should ask themselves why their parents’ wedlock managed to hold out and seek advice from them,” she said

“Many young people save money and want to do everything excluding parents who would have a role in advising them. They should not surprise parents but rather inform them about their plans before so that they can direct them”.

The research covered 55 sectors across the country with 4180 respondents.

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WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF BRIDE PRICE

Alice Icyeza, mother
It is not good to let the boy decide himself on what to pay. Otherwise, he would blame all problems on you because your family imposed him to pay a given price. He would constantly remind you that you would not be having problems in your home, had he not paid a big dowry.  

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Jean Damascene Habinshuti, father
It doesn’t matter to charge a large bride price because after all, the money you charge will be used in preparing the wedding which is increasingly becoming very expensive.

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Odette Nsabeyezu, mother
During our times, it was widely known that a dowry was equivalent to one young calf. There were no arguments about that. When people keep increasing its value, I think they are looking for other benefits. 

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Jean Paul Mugenzi, father
I paid one cow but I never worried about what i would pay because I knew my wife cared not that much. We were thinking more about post-marriage life than wasting time on petty things.

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Fanique Simbi Umuhoza, 4th runner up, Miss Rwanda 2017
We should respect our culture, keep in mind that dowry is not meant to buy but to recognize the parents for having successfully raised the girl. No price should be established. It should be agreed upon based on the capacity of the man.

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Eric Niyonzima, driver
In the past, dowry was about love and marriage was an opportunity to connect families. They would not care much about the value of the price as friendship. Young people should not seek luxurious weddings and validation.

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Beata Uwamariya, mother
Currently, the bride and bridegroom share responsibilities such as building a house and other duties. That’s why the bride’s family takes the opportunity and charge a big price because they know she would not be able to give back what they spent on her such as education. Each region should set up a price of the dowry depending on the wealth of its residents.

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Providence Cyabera, mother
Dowry should not be a problem. There are more serious matters in households to worry about that youth must take into account instead of wasting time looking for expensive dowry and organizing eventful ceremonies.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw