It will be difficult to enforce proposed ban on bride price
Posted Monday, March 4 2013 at 02:00
And then there is this ostentatious show which comes in lorry-fulls of so-called gifts, including exorbitant sofa seats. Sometimes there have been whole trailers or depots of beer or soft drinks donated as marriage gifts, or vehicles, such as Range Rovers, Mercedes Benzes, etc. What would the law do to these?
Following the Daily Monitor article of February 28, titled “House begins debate on Marriage and Divorce Bill”, a number of questions have come to my mind, which I’m seeking answers for. These include:
(1) If, following the Bill, cohabiting is legalised, even if, as the author of the article says ‘in relation to property rights’, what will be the material difference between usual marriage as we know it today, and cohabiting as might then be adopted by the new law?
(2) Can we then stop having headaches about formal marriage processes, since, after all, the two will be equated by the law?
(3) And if I have enough property to dish out, can I then start picking women, cohabiting with them, and dumping them at will? After all, there will be property to give them. In this case, where is the institution of marriage, or don’t we need it anymore?
The article also mentions that the Bill seeks to abolish bride price. Well, I want first to state that bride price is difficult to abolish, besides the effort being unnecessary. For instance, the law will not always be there between two parties (the bride-to-be’s family and the groom-to-be’s family), to see what they do in secrecy.
For, in many cases when the law is in place, such negotiations will take place in secrecy or privately. After all, either party will know what they want. So, which of the two parties is going to let out the information at this time? Or it will come when difficulties have emerged in the marriage? What then will be redeemable (curable) by the law?
From the above, I want to propose that we should not bother about bride price. Instead, we should provide for safe leaving of marriages when individuals cannot sustain it. In other words, we should ensure that even having paid bride price, one is not fettered by it but should be protected by the law to exit the marriage peacefully.
No one should be allowed to demand the return of bride price when a marriage has failed. I know this is enforceable because there are competing, even conflicting interests unlike at the time of marriage. Here it is easy for a person to run to the law for protection against demands of bride price refund. Moreover, the payers of bride price will now start thinking twice as to how much to pay since nothing is redeemable at the failure of the marriage. This way we shall have provided an automatic check on bride price.
But there is another angle to the debate. If the law is to abolish bride price, then it would have to define it or else the law will not be enforceable. But this is a tall order, since bride price is so amorphous (boundless) and often mutating (evolving).
For instance, today we all know that some families ask for just bibles as symbols of the marriage covenants between their children. Others may ask for as few things as simple chicken or bracelets. And then there is this ostentatious show which comes in lorry-fulls of so-called gifts, including exorbitant sofa seats. Sometimes there have been whole trailers or depots of beer or soft drinks donated as marriage gifts, or vehicles, such as Range Rovers, Mercedes Benzes, etc.
What would the law do to these? Remember that many of these may appear voluntary and sometimes competitive. Each intending couple tends to out-do the one that did it before them. The situation is even worsened by the splashing of events all over the media, electronic and print. So, where is the position of the law in this?
Mr Barongo ba Kafuuzi is a concerned citizen.