By-law on bride price in Acholi is welcome

Friday April 16 2021
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A dance troupe performs the Acholi Otole war dance during a cultural festival in Gulu Municipality in 2018. Such dances often accompany the Acholi traditional marriages. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY/URN

By Editor

News that the Acholi cultural institution has  passed a by-law, stipulating the standard bride price one can pay is laudable.  

In a story titled, “Acholi cultural leaders pass by-law on high bride price” , in Daily Monitor of April 14,  it was reported that under the new arrangement, one is required to pay bride price not exceeding Shs5m and anything more than that is considered a gift to the bride’s family.

According to the by-law, when one seeks to marry an Acholi woman, they will be required to take a lamp, paraffin, laundry and bathing soap, a matchbox, one big saucepan, a stool for the father-in law, a gomesi for the mother-in-law, a suit for the father-in-law, cigarettes, a goat for the uncle, a goat for the paternal aunt, a fee for the bride to open up (layap dog nyako), and one goat for preparing the marital home (ogwa ot).

Other requirements include facilitation for the marriage committee (obal tic), six goats (dyegi Akumu), six cows (dyangi Akumu) and bride price between Shs3 and Shs5 million.

These parameters have been instituted to abolish what the Chief Justice Alfonse Owinyi-Dollo once termed as commercialisation of traditional marriages.

Some parents and guardians are guilty of turning their daughters’ intent to marry  into a money making venture by making unimaginable demands on anyone who dares to ask for their hand in marriage.Even though the by-law was made for Acholi,the  practice doesn’t only happen there, it happens in all regions of the country.

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 Many young people are forced to abandon any intentions to marry because of demands that they can’t meet, while others spend their puny savings on meeting these demands and then are left to start their marriage with nothing.

Commercialising traditional marriages also contributes to domestic violence where women will now be seen property. Of course it would be foolhardy to  assume that the only reason young people shy away from commitment or  domestic violence still thrives is due to high bride price, but for those for whom this was the reason, it should come as a relief.

While preserving cultural practices is a good thing,  norms should not be abused.  Practices that don’t improve livelihoods, infringe on general  wellbeing  must be revised.

 This new by-law brings to mind the 2015 Supreme Court  ruling of the refund of bride price by the woman’s parents or relatives upon a failed marriages as unconstitutional. It was agreed then that the refund of bride process connotes that the woman in the marriage was on some sort of a loan and it compromised the dignity of the women contrary to article 33 (1) of the Constitution.

These kind of rulings that  promote general well-being and dignity of humanity without watering down culture and traditions are commendable. Hope we can have more of these.

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