I have read several posts on this platform concerning the debate on the abolishment of bride price. Some school of thoughts say it’s demeaning while another school says it’s encouraging domestic violence. Some say bride price connotes SELLING women off.
I’m one of the proponents of bride price. As African, bride price is our identity. I think the main reason for bride is some sort of protection for women. This is to ensure that they’re taken care of rather than taken advantage of.It equally means commitment.
Marriage is an institution. It is an agreement between families (not just the couple). For every agreement there should be a seal binding the agreement. Bride price symbolizes a seal for an agreement. Bride price is to marriage what MOUs is to agreement between companies or governments. This explains why when marriages collapse, bride price is returned to the woman’s family. This means the agreement has been nullified. Christians use rings while some use chains ,toe ring, necklace etc One of the problems with Africans is too much western indoctrination. We cannot trade our tradition for some misguided set of people. Bride price is our culture as Africans and should be protected. It is shocking to reveal that dowry is still legal in Britain. Yes, although some countries have abolished that but it’s being practiced elsewhere.
Meanwhile, In the part of Eastern Nigeria where I come from , marriage rite does not in any way suggest PURCHASE OF WOMEN. In Abiriba it is relatively cheap to marry from Abiriba. I’ve taken my time to examine marriage rites in Abiriba, Abia State. It’s nothing but mutual agreement between two families. There’s nothing that suggests trade of any sort .
I will take the liberty of telling you about the marriage rites in Abiriba to prove that it doesn’t suggest SELLING OF WOMEN.
In Abiriba, once an eligible bachelor declares his intention of settling down. His mother informs all relatives and friends, they start donating buckets (ikpoza pan) with 1 naira in it (now N10) If you’re familiar with Abiriba traditional marriages, those numerous buckets are not bought by the groom but donated by relatives and friends of the groom’s family.
On the eve before the traditional marriage, the groom’s family brings a fowl, half bag of rice, tomatoes, the bride’s dress and that of her train. The rice and the rest are meant to be for the traditional marriage entertainment. How can one fowl be enough for the whole guests?so the bride’s family takes care of the food and drinks while the groom’s family takes care of canopies, photographs and music etc. (You noticed how responsibilities are shared?). The financial burden is not on the groom unlike in other places in the country.
Abiriba’s bride price is N6.50 (six Naira 50 kobo) approximately N7 (seven Naira) but now, coins are no longer in use so the bride price is N700 (7hundred Naira). Where else in Igbo land can you pay N700 as bride price? In Abiriba, there’s nothing like “wine carrying”, so it’s basically agreement between the two families in the bride’s father’s house. Once the two families reach a consensus, then the keg of Palm wine is taken outside.This signifies that the traditional marriage is over and the in-laws can now go. (The dancing outdoor can only happen once the keg of Palm wine is taken outside.That’s when you hear people ask “wa ka nnori ime uluo?” “eme ha ime uluo?”)
The groom’s family brings gifts for the bride, the father and mother (Imeyi Ife) including the endless buckets donated. Those are those enormous Items you see displayed. That’s the scary part for some eligible bachelors . Yes, there is list of things to buy but there are no rules on the quantity or quality to buy. A typical Abiriba man loves show of affluence. ” “Imeyi ife” is an avenue to show-off their wealth. Of a truth, Ime Ife can show how wealthy the groom is. Of course, one can always cut his clothe according to his cloth since there are no rules on the number and quality of items to be bought.
The bride’s family gives aki bekee(coconut), “abachi” dry pepper and grounds in exchange of buckets and basins brought by the in-laws. The in-laws then return those items to the bucket donors. The following morning, the bride’s family cooks Rice (usually that half bag brought at the eve before the trad) and “utara eka ufe” (leave translation for another day) to the groom’s family. That is what the groom will eat. At this point,It’s mutual; the two families are spending.
The picture above is part of the marriage rite.The bride takes her maids to fetch watch for her mother-law, after the traditional wedding. The bride carries Iron bucket while her maids,plastics buckets. However, it should be noted that Abiriba brides do not follow their grooms home after the traditional marriage. The bride remains in her father’s house till after the church wedding.
When the couple are no longer interested in the marriage. The two families will gather again. Here, the bride price (N6.50) will be refunded to the groom’s family. Now, the amount of money to be refunded is based on the number of kids and sex of the children. A male child is equivalent to N1 while a girl-child is 50 kobo. Basically, a woman with 3 boys and 2 girls means N4 and N2.50 will be refunded.
You want to scream she’s paying with her children ? No. By Abiriba Tradition, the woman owns the child. Abiriba practices matrilineal descent, this means every child belongs to the woman and her Ikwu.The return of the bride price is solely for nullification.
So you see, there’s no place that suggests selling women off. Bride price shouldn’t be abolished rather the lists of items to be bought should be reviewed. In Abiriba, the groom can always cut his clothe according to his cloth.