Buying Women: Bride Prices – Giving U™

Uganda has the highest rate of domestic violence in the world with 68% of Uganda women suffering violent abuse at home. I had a conversation with Patrick Ndira, a director at Mifumi, an organization based in Uganda that works to protect women and girls from violence.

I’ve known Patrick for more than 5 years. We met during my first visit to Uganda, when I spent several days with Patrick and his colleagues doing strategy work in the Ugandan border town of Tororo.

During our short visit, he explained that there are a number of reasons for violence against Ugandan women, which unfortunately is on the rise. These reasons include entrenched poverty, the imposing of strict church doctrine, and the cultural tradition of a bride price.

An African Tradition

A bride price is a payment that is given to the bride’s parents by the future husband. The agreed upon price is generally intended to reflect the perceived value of the girl or young woman.

In Africa, where bride price is still widely practiced, it is known as “lobola” in the southern parts of the continent, “mahari” in east Africa or “wine-carrying” among tribes in west Africa. The price is roughly the equivalent of 5 years of the groom’s expendable income and is payable in post-nuptial installment of livestock, bicycles and cash.

While a bride price is in use throughout Africa, in rural communities the bride price is especially important. For instance, in Lesotho, the price of a bride is 22 cows. In Swaziland, it is 15 cows.

The problem with the bride price is that once a man has paid for the woman, he then, in essence, owns her. She has become a commodity. And if the wife suffers abuse, she cannot return to her home because in most cases her parents won’t have the funds to pay back the price.

The Price of Violence

In a recent study looking at the connection between bride price and domestic violence in Uganda, 99% of the interviewees (all of who had been purchased as brides) had experienced domestic violence.

In some cases, parents are not seeing their daughter as part of their long-term family, but as an opportunity to make money. Therefore they may not make the investment in the girl’s education. In addition, there are cases where the bride’s family is willing to sell their daughter to a man infected with HIV / AIDS for a higher price. Or sell the girl at a younger age.

The Future of the Bride Price

In an interesting twist, because many men can’t afford a bride price, an increasing number of couples are remaining un-married. This status leaves the woman unprotected when she has children and she is not able to benefit from the laws of a formal union, such as inheritance laws.

Because it of its entrenchment in African culture, abolishing the bride price is difficult. Instead, Mifumi is trying to use the courts to re-define the payment of a bride price as a symbolic gesture, rather than as a monetary incentive to the bride’s family.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Mifumi site:

The GoErinGo! Fund will make a $500 donation to Mifumi to support its work in ending domestic violence and abuse against women and girls in Uganda. Care to join me?

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 5th, 2011 and is filed under Hot Orgs.

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