Are women, forever, going to be treated like mere property?

In the African culture, bride price is the money or goods given as a token of appreciation by grooms to the families of their brides.

In the African culture, bride price is the money or goods given as a token of appreciation by grooms to the families of their brides.

Currently Ugandan Women’s rights activists have petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare this old traditional practice of demanding for payment of a “bride price” unconstitutional.

The petitioners led by Atuki Turner, a lawyer and executive director of a women’s and child’s rights agency called MIFUMI,  and women rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi argued that the bride price leads to the many inequality issues in marriages.

The fact that this practice is obligatory in many African cultures makes the man feel superior and hence leads to his cruelty and degrading of women.

To some extent, if a man’s wife dies before he clears his bride price balance; the woman cannot be buried until the dues are settled.

A colleague of mine said that the fact that it’s not optional, he shall pay the bride price but on one condition, that the wife will be submissive, obedient and not lazy.

Then I asked, what determines how submissive she will be? Then it means he will have to set rules in his house that are to be followed.

When asked what would be the consequences failure to abide to his rules, he confirmed my fears by saying that he would beat her.

If such is the mentality of the young, educated men we are willing to settle down with, then this problem will be with us for a little while longer.

Why and how can you equate yourself with someone who paid money as a pre-condition for having you live with him as a wife?

 It is true they say that whoever shuns their culture is a slave but now does that mean we have to hang on to cultures that indeed are making us slaves? Should the bride price be declared unconstitutional? Oh yes!

Most of our countries constitutions advocate for equality between women and women. Giving monetary value on human beings is degrading in itself.

It makes us be enslaved and trapped in some unhappy abusive marriages only because goods once sold can never be refunded.

That means that a couple can only separate if the bride’s parents are willing to refund the bride price that was paid to them probably 10 years earlier.

It all starts with parents, with some making it their way of easing the economic pressure on them by using their daughters as a source of income by auctioning them out to the highest bidder. 

Women empowerment has increasingly threatened men, like the one mentioned above. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing left for men to feel superior about; even the two cows given as bride price, which made them set the rules in the house, are no longer of any consequence.

We, women can triple that show our parents our appreciation for their efforts in bringing us up.

After all even in the Indian culture, the brides side is the one that pays bride price to the grooms. That is now even worse and more despicable than our own culture.

The one left to suffer is the vulnerable illiterate woman in the village who knows none of her rights, and is violated just because some man somewhere took two cows and one chicken to her parents.

Bride price should be made unconstitutional for the sake of the vulnerable that are still mistreated and treated like chattel.

The author is a journalist with The New Times.

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