Payment of bride price turns women into commodities

Wednesday September 10 2014

The Daily Monitor feature titled, “Should friends fund your introduction?” in the September 4 issue of Heart to heart magazine raised some interesting issues about bride price. I shall not focus on the astronomical demands that families make on the intended couple, or the need for men to prove their manliness by meeting or surpassing those demands, at great personal cost.
I will instead focus on the implications of making any payments at all, to marry a woman.
A respondent, when asked if he would raise money to fund a friend’s marriage, answered: “If someone wants people to help him fundraise money- for his wife, it implies the fundraiser can borrow her as well since they helped him pay for her.”
This statement summarises the single biggest problem with bride price; the commodification of women.
Bride price, which ostensibly shows appreciation to the woman’s family, is actually a price that may turn women into property, silencing them and robbing them of their agency in the process.
An obvious example of this is the culture that mandates that a group of men should, behind closed doors and without the woman’s input, haggle over her value! When a man pays this agreed upon price, he may feel entitled to treat his wife as he pleases.
In Mifumi’s line of work, we have run into cases where men said, “I am beating my cows,” when they hit their wives, or women being denied ownership of property, because after all, how can “property” own property?
And worse still like the respondent observed, women inherited by their husbands’ brothers when their spouses die, something the brothers no doubt felt entitled to, since they helped pay her bride price. Why should we let this keep happening in the name of culture when we can reform it?
Mifumi’s position is that bride price should not be an essential requirement for marriage and that the refund of bride price should not be demanded upon its dissolution.
Leah Eryenyu,
PR/Communications Officer Mifumi