The practice of dowry is deeply rooted in Rwandan culture. Dowry was a token of appreciation by the groom-to-be to the bride’s parents for a job well done raising their daughter. This was always in the form of cattle and property.
Sadly, dowry has became a price tag determined by the bride’s parents to enrich their pockets.
Claudette Kayitesi, a 70 year-old restaurant owner in Kacyiru, said she pleaded with her father not to accept dowry from her husband. She feared that if they separated, she would be deprived of her children. Luckily, Kayitesi’s father defied culture and consented with her request.
“Since I got married, my husband hasn’t beaten me at all,” she said.
Maybe her traditional marriage devoid of beatings from the husband was due to the exclusion of dowry.
Kayitesi believes that the essence of women emancipation loses meaning without the elimination of dowry.
“What is the use of fighting for emancipation when dowry still exists?” Kayitesi said.
According to Kayitesi, family conflicts are a result of the practice of dowry since overpriced dowry drains the financial foundation of men.
She says, many men strip their wives of self-ownership and condemn them to servanthood in order to recover what was spent on dowry.
Claudette Mukamuganga, an evangelist, in her early 30s yet to be married, supports the dowry practice.
“Dowry is a must according to our Rwandan culture. It can’t be done away with,” Mukamuganga said.
Mukamuganga argues that dowry indicates that the groom appreciates the bride’s parent’s efforts in raising their daughter. However, critics argue that dowry undermines women emancipation. In India, unlike here in Africa, the bride’s family pays the dowry dues. But Indian women activists have continued to highlight that dowry deaths’ have become prevalent.
In India, the deaths have remained persistent in the face of a law enacted in 1961 banning dowry; in the 1980s the same law was toughened.
But this hasn’t decelerated either the rate of atrocities or the practice of dowry which seems to be inherent in the Indian culture.
The practice of dowry is still a requirement to form a family and deeply embedded in the Rwandan culture, however, it portrays women as a commodity with a price tag.
Therefore, it is undermining women emancipation. it needs to be stamped out.