We recently got our first sister-in-law and I love her to death. Okay not to death because I don’t think I would willingly leave this world without having found a man. I wouldn’t do that to my mother.
I felt the need to establish my feelings for my sister-in-law so that no one questions my objectivity as I question the usefulness of this thing called dowry.
I know it is uncultured for a girl to whistle but I did whistle when I heard about the number of cows my sister-in-law’s family demanded in ‘appreciation’ for “bringing up a beautiful girl and educating her up to the university.”
I am aware that dowry is one of the “oooh don’t touch” topics because to question the usefulness of dowry is to attack one of the norms held dear in quite a number of African societies.
But to be honest, I am only questioning dowry because I do not understand it. And the reason why I do not understand it is because every time I ask about the reason behind it, I only get an almost-angry response: “It’s our culture!”
Unfortunately, I do not even really understand what “our culture” is.
We Africans can be a very confusing bunch. We go up in arms when a woman undresses in public. “It is against our culture!”But we take pride in wearing ‘decent’ imported clothes. We take pride in Christianity. We take pride in having nice cars. What’s cultural about that?
Also, must we blindly accept a norm because it is cultural? I bet the women who undergo the humiliation and pain of female genital mutilation beg to differ.
Now, The first thing I want to know about dowry is, if dowry really is a token of appreciation, why do recipients get to determine and even demand how they should be thanked?
You can’t tell someone, “I am demanding that you thank me by giving me twenty cows.” You are asking for payment, not appreciation.
And say it is even appreciation. Why does anyone have to appreciate a parent for “bringing up a beautiful girl and educating her up to the university?”How is this different from fattening a cow and getting a good price for it on marketing day?
Also, is it not constitutional to raise a child and educate them, whether or not they are beautiful? (And beauty is subjective of course).
I would also like to know why the parents of the boy do not get appreciated. I mean clearly they took good care of their child too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be in position to take a wife and head a family. I bet the reason is “because it’s our culture.”
It’s possible that at some point before us Africans transitioned from being completely cultural to being confused ‘in-betweeners’, dowry had a good explanation. I would like to know that reason.
Because to me, dowry, even if it is sugarcoated as appreciation, makes it seem like parenting a girl starts at birth and ends at marriage. Because appreciation comes after work is complete. Is it just me or is parenting supposed to be a lifetime job?