Payment of the “bride price” is a significant part of marriage rites in several African cultures, but many have sought to have it scrapped. Alfred Olufemi writes on the latest proposal before the Rwandan Parliament to ban this practice.
In Rwandan culture, the groom pays a “bride price” before marrying a woman, but some believe that this age-old tradition has only placed a financial burden on couples.
Leonard Ndagijimana, a member of the Rwandan parliament, has now proposed that the practice of paying a bride price should be scrapped as a way of preventing problems facing many Rwandan families.
The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Jeannette Bayisenge, was also present at the 15 November plenary session to respond to questions about problems facing families in Rwanda, when the topic arose.
“We know very well that bride price is a burden to men who want to marry. The price has reached upwards of RWF 1 million (US$925),” said Ndagijimana. The lawmaker further argued that bride price, among other wedding rites, has caused many married couples to seek bank loans.
"You find that a newly married couple is already in debt. Imagine a family starting from such a scenario. Most of them have bank loans or are indebted to their friends,” he said.
“Some couples spend RWF 6 million (US$5 552) on the wedding ceremony, and they don’t have what to eat after the festivities. How would they not get involved in conflicts? Instead of looking at each other in the lenses of the honeymoon, they see each other as problems,” the lawmaker commented, citing the rising number of divorce cases and gender-based violence in the country.
However, Bayisenge maintained that bride price is not the problem. "Our laws do not determine bride price as a requirement for marriage. Bride price has a meaning in our culture, it’s a sign of appreciation,” she argued.“Some parents today perceive it as the price tag for the girl. And that is where our efforts should be targeted in order to change the perception. Otherwise the tradition itself is not the problem.”
Ndagijimana’s call to scrap bride price, although the latest on the continent, is not the first. In 2012 Kenya’s government announced plans to ban bride price payments and legalise polygamy.
The controversial proposals, although approved by the cabinet, were not passed by parliament and as a result couldn’t take effect. In the bill proposed by the executive arm of government, it was noted that the ban is intended to give women and children protection under the law.
In 2021, a Nigerian lawmaker, Kenneth Ibeh,voiced a similar concern. He proposed a bill to peg the expenses of customary marriage in Imo state to a maximum of N180 000 (US$406), lamenting the fact that young women of marriageable age remained unmarried due to the high costs of marriage and the bride price.
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