Culture is a critical component of every human society influencing beliefs and behaviours. Features and celebrations such as birth, death, various initiations, and marriage (including bride price), are heavily conditioned by culture and tradition and vary from society to society.
Bride pride which is part of our African heritage dates back beyond the European influences in the African continent. While we cannot deny that bride price is an integral part of our African tradition, the real question is:
To what extent this practice has diverted away from the original and true purpose of its cultural evolutionary value?
Bride price, also known as bride-wealth, or bride token is money or property paid to the parents and family of a woman by her suitors before she can properly become a wife in the traditional context.
This practice is still widely practised today in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. It confers validity to marriage and clears the way for church blessings or Court certificates.
Anthropological evidence, especially among the Igbo tribe of southern Nigeria, shows the historical symbolism of bride price contrary to the mistaken impression of the ‘sales’ attitude of the present-day society.
This wrong image coming from the family of the bride is often driven by greed, ignorance, and poverty; it is an attitude that makes nonsense of the symbolic purpose of it and raises the question of bad practice.
A major criticism against the Bride Price includes the negative impact of this self-enrichment attitude exhibited by potential bride parents who do not usually care about the implications pecuniary demand exerts on the budding family.
A suitor made to unwillingly pay much money as a bride price will often claim ownership of the woman as if she were his property. There is also complacency on the part of most suitors who often want to impress on how financially prepared they are!
Unfortunately, this show of shame between potential inlaws has tragically diverted the once beautiful symbol of a bond (bride price) to become a social menace. In conclusion, the bride price is not bad.
A Marriage without the bride price in the African context deprives a woman of her required sense of pride and dignity; it also does not convey parental nod of consent to the marriage; these elements are quite vital in a matrimonial relationship.
The primordial symbol of the bride price has both spiritual and social signification in binding affinity between families contracting the marriage. This relationship involves a larger family of both couples contracting the marriage.
Enlightened and ‘well-off’ families also invoke dowry during marriage negotiation. By the way, “Dowry” which is the amount of money or property brought by a woman to her husband on their marriage in Igboland is often avoided today. Be wise dowry is part of the deal!