Paying bride price is common across Africa, and in many parts of the continent it is a symbolic act rather than a binding contract. In Uganda, the custom is practiced all over the country. In some churches one cannot be wed because they have not yet paid bride price/wealth. However, some people are shying away from getting married officially because of too much money and associated costs like gifts (cars, Friesian cows, etc). Today it is almost becoming fashionable for intending persons who want to marry to show off their riches on wedding or introduction day.

Some culture demand lots of cows for one to marry. These cows or goats work as bride price/wealth. Bride price, best called bride-wealth, also known as bride token, is money, property, or other form of wealth paid by a groom or his family to the parents of the woman. Even in cultures where bride price is not levied, the prospective grooms are outdoing themselves by showing their financial muscle as they table goodies they bring for their brides. In turn those who are not yet married are thinking it’s getting hard for them to get married or marry as the focus for marriage is turning to material wealth ‘showbiz’. “This is defeating the purpose of marriage,” says David Kintu Nkwanga, a church elder.

Need to know information:
1.  On Saturdays and Sundays, local television stations broadcast special editions, often paid for through advertising, about weddings and kwanjula, a traditional event where a woman introduces her prospective husband to her parents. There is a chance to learn how best marriage hopefuls can organise their celebrations or what sort of gifts they may consider asking for. But a key highlight in these shows, especially those about kwanjula, is the property the groom gives to the bride – cars, cows, money, fridges, and other things – in the form of the “bride price”. The more he gives, the higher his wealth and status. Consequently If a marriage failed, some men would go back to the woman’s family home to demand a return of their property.

2.  In August 2015 the supreme court in Kampala ruled, in a majority judgment of 6:1, that the traditional custom and practice of demanding a refund of the bride price if a marriage breaks down is unconstitutional and “dehumanising to women”.

Across sub-Saharan Africa – from Malawi, to Zambia to Kenya and South Africa – the practice of paying a bride price is common. In Kenyan pastoral communities, it is paid in the form of cattle and has been blamed for rampant cattle rustling. The same could be said of Karamoja when cattle rustling was common.

Sheila Ndyanabangi, a marriage counsellor and women’s rights advocate, says the bride-price practice sets standards that young people cannot afford. “Because they have commercialised this aspect [of marriage], people now reach the extent of borrowing a vehicle … and presenting it as bride price, and then telling the parents of the girl, ‘You [have to] give it back,’” she says. “This [ruling] is the way to go; it is progressive; it is civilised and will [help] many couples to be able to formalise their marriages.”

• Paying bride price is common across Africa
• However, paying bride price has been made a showbiz
• Materialism is taking over the real meaning of bride price
• Bride price is supposed to be a taken of appreciation not a price tag for a bride


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