I referred to "bride price" in a recent letter to some friends. One of them asked me what this means and why I am against it.
The bride price practice in Africa is part of the socio-economics of Africa. It is a way of providing a sort of pension for parents. Young men and their families are expected to give cash and cows to the bride's family. A price that is negotiated between the elders representing the two families. The price is determined by future bride's father and uncles. Where this practice causes problems is when young men or their families cannot pay the bride price, but they go ahead and live together
The families would cut them off the young man if he got married without paying the bride price. However, it is common for a man to live with the woman he plans to marry some day without getting married while he tries to save or find a way to pay the bride price, and of course the couple normally have several children as well.Many of the men leave the woman they are living with if they prefer another woman or move back home to the tribal area. There is flexibility on the part of the family and tribal elders to accept their sons and daughters living together, but there is no tolerance for them to get officially married until the bride price is paid.
This double standard has led to destruction in many people's lives. Sally and I are trying to understand how to honour African traditions and practices but to also work for transformation of those practices that are creating havoc in people's lives, especially innocent children.