One of the worst evils of Society is the dowry system. In India, young women have been forced to commit suicide when they were unable to handle the pressures of this cultural process, in fact dowry related deaths have been on the increase, 8083 in 2014 to 8318 in 2015. The word ‘dowry’ means the property and money that a groom brings to his wife’s parents before they are allowed to start a marriage. It is a custom that is prevalent in all the sections of our society in one form or the other. At the beginning it was voluntary, but later on the social pressure was such that very few could escape from it. In the case of India, its the bride who has to give it to the grooms family.
The dowry at present is a source of both joy and curse in the society. It is also a joy to the wife and his relatives who get cash, cows, goats, sheep, clothes etc. The man is happy to get a wife but not always, its dependent on how he is treated by hi in-laws. If he is flash, he will satisfy his ego by lavishing his in-laws with cash and present, if he is poor, we will endure the embarrassment. So, it is a curse to the groom’s parents who have to bear enormous cost to satisfy the unreasonable demands of the bride’s parties. A demand of dowry does not diminish even after marriage. The in-laws of the groom are very much ready in African homes to inflict harassment, insults and tortures-both mental and physical. As they always say, its not a process that ends, not until you die.
Our Laws must be consistent with our cultures not foreign thinking. For example, the Bukusu communities of Western Kenya have annual circumcision ceremonies; the Swazis have annual Reed Dances and many more. These are initiations into adulthood according to various communities and many more. Payment of dowry is a cultural and matrimonial practice among most African communities. It marks the issues of amatory, that includes entry into adulthood.
The purpose of dowry was not money or sale (not until everybody needed some stimulus package) of a bride. You cannot sell human beings. Slave trade was banned in 1884 and cannot happen in this era and time. Dowry payment is essentially a manifestation of commitment and agreement. It has no commercial value but social satisfaction-not until the 19th century. The groom takes the bride to his home as wife permanently and for good. Dowry payment and agreement is a ghost contract and the payer receives the bride. It is done publicly, in the day time, and in presence of close relatives and in-laws from both sides of the divide.
Today, people have taken a lot of advantage of this, to the extend that they will want to get out of it as rich as they could possibly be. A friends of mine shared with me his story, how while visiting his in-laws he was shown an open field and the words that followed were……”fill this place with cows” the young man had no father and not a rich mother. He wondered am sure how he could do that. While I understand the significant of this cultural practice, I do not agree with the fact that there are people taking advantage of it. Young men have gone to their in-laws and come back with heavy hearts and sometimes broken dreams that they could not afford the bride price. The bible tells us that when When Jacob was about to get married, he was made to work for seven years as a measure of payment for Rachel’s bride price. But did Jacob give what he didn’t have? the answer is NO.
My point is that, yes its an important aspect of culture, a show of commitment to the man accepting a woman for marriage,…. gives the lady a sense of value or even acting as some divided to the parents of the lady. The sure thing is that this culture can not satisfy our greed. If anything, the one thing that most people do, rich or poor is to get married and have babies. It doesn’t matter what you do, while preserving our culture, lets do it in wisdom.