BRIDE PRICE is referred to as lobola in the southern parts of the continent, mahari in East Africa, wine carrying among tribes in West Africa, and owó orí among the tribe I come from (Yoruba).
I remember quite well how my Yoruba teacher gave me my first lessons on marriage customs and traditions in Yoruba land when I was in JSS1. She said that if the bride was met as a virgin on her wedding night, full kegs of palm wine and boxes of matches would be sent to her father’s house as a sign that their daughter’s “complete.” But if she wasn’t met as a virgin, empty kegs and empty boxes of matches would be angrily sent to her father’s house indicating that their daughter was met as a kòròfo (empty). As a young girl, while listening raptly to what my teacher was saying, I had many questions I wanted to ask but I was a shy one.
“What would be done to the husband too if he wasn’t a virgin? Why is emphasis always laid on we, the girls, staying as virgins and never my male counterparts? So the man could go around fucking like a dog on heat while the woman must always “close her legs?”
I never asked the questions because I felt that would be abnormal. And of course, I’d be tagged crazy or different by my peers.
As an adult, I still ask questions.
Why is the worth of a woman reduced to a very tiny membrane covering her own body part? Now she can’t do whatever she likes with her own body parts because her worth is attached to that tiny membrane? If we’re to go by that Yoruba tradition that celebrates virginity with kegs of palm wine or whatever, then can we rightly say all single women who have already been disvirgined are worthless?
Look at you single sexually active girl reading this right now, according to the sexist/patriarchal chastity school of thought, you are valueless. No, stop wishing to bash my face in, I didn’t say so. The chastity police say so. 🤷🏻♀
But it’s a good thing much emphasis ain’t still being laid on chastity as it’s relatively obsessively the case in the past. They’ve gone a bit lenient on the female folks and the attention has been mainly focused on the issue of bride price only.
Bride price commodifies women and it’s dehumanizing.
Women’s sense of self worth in marriage has been reduced to payment of bride price determined by men. I wrote “men” because it’s basically a transaction between the woman’s father (a man) and her potential husband (another man). The father rescinds his ownership of her daughter to another man through the payment of bride price. There’s a sense of ownership here, and the woman is always advised or threatened to be sent to either of the owners. Can you own someone that has not been first objectified and dehumanised?
“I’ll send you back to your father’s house.”
Or “go to to your husband’s house” or more savagely aptly put: “your master’s house.”
Have you ever heard of anyone telling a man to go to his wife’s house? There shouldn’t be anything like husband’s house, it should be “matrimonial home.”
There have been many cases of domestic abuse, marital rape and many other vices associated with this business of buying and selling a woman.
You’d hear “after paying your bride price, you’re here telling me you’re tired and you can’t have sex with me?”
He’ll either rape his wife or threaten to send her back to her other owner, the father’s house. And there are Nigerian laws that institutionalises marital rape while Christianity also backs it up. This is one of the many reasons why rape still prevails in Nigeria so much so that an average of ten thousand cases of rape occur per day. Rape is normalised in certain contexts like marriage and so why can’t it be okay in other “contexts” like what the woman was wearing and any other disgusting sexist excuses?
Some families even go as far as inheriting this bought commodity when the original buyer dies.
The issue of bride price in South East Nigeria is out of hand, they sell women to the highest bidder.
Stephen Baffour Adjei, a social, cultural and developmental psychologist and a lecturer and researcher at the University of Education in Kumasi, Ghana, claimed in a 2018 study, that bride price “has both social and psychological implications for the men who pay and for the women for whom it is paid,” specifically that “psychologically, the practice created an ownership mentality in men” which could lead men to “see their wives as their purchase over whom they exercise unfettered authority, including physical and psychological abuse.”
In the case of women, Adjei’s report said: “The definition of women’s identities, and their sense of self-worth in marriage, was determined by men through the payment of bride price.”
Of course, I expect watery defences that hide behind religion and culture (take these two out of the equation and watch patriarchy crumble helplessly to the ground). And of course, more important than these two factors is the family institution from which every social vice originates.
“Bride price is our culture and tradition, who are you to question them?”
The killing of twins got questioned and it was our “culture”, slavery got abolished and it was a culture, but when it comes to the ones oppressing women you defend these “cultures” with all your might. Because who wouldn’t want to defend their privileges?
If bride price is just “symbolic” and “cultural” and has no real psychological and social effects, men would demand for groom price too.
Most men defend the whole bride price bullshit just because they think their privileges to buy and own another person is attached to that. You can’t own another person. People are meant to be loved not owned. Most of the problems of our world comes from seeking to own people and things for private use, instead of enjoying the free gift of love.
For the patriarchal man, owning a woman means owning a housemaid, sex worker and baby-making machine all wrapped into one. A “wife material” is synonymous to slave. That’s at least three different costs escaped. Employing a housemaid can cost the man a lot in wages, so he gets a full housewife. Patronising a sex worker can cost the man a lot in payment, so he gets a full time live in sex worker. Getting a surrogate for pregnancy, or a child rearer to help raise children costs a lot too. That’s the economics of bride price. And since the Igbos are real business people, that is why it seems the culture is stronger in Igbo land. And the misogyny/sexism in these parts of the country is terrible.
This is the economics of patriarchy.
Challenging it starts from freeing every woman from the shackles of marital pressure that are peddled for cheap pecuniary economic reasons.
Written by SISÍ AFRIKA.