Bride price. To pay or not to pay? This is the most common dilema in an interracial couple especially when its African paired with other races. Failure to abide by this law has led to broken romances, prescription estranged family ties, sickness enemity and general confusion in worst cases. As much as African to African relationships suffer , this site mixed unions have been hit harder hence the term ‘The interracial relationship monster’.
For those who are still in the dark; Bride Price also known as Bridewealth or Bride Token refers to money,property or any form of wealth paid by a groom or the grooms family to the parents of his bride before or just after the marriage takes place. There is another form of wealth exchange practiced called Dowry which is paid to the groom,however,this has never had serious repercussions compared to the later.
To say that the presence of this practice has only been in Africa is false. This exchange has also been observed in Asia ,some pacific island societies and also existed in middle age Europe. Contrary to some scholars who reassure that payment of Bridewealth is ‘not purchase of a woman’ the custom breeds female devaluation by what happens when the couple splits up. Many at times the brides father has to return a certain amount to the groom as a gesture of confirmation that his daughter wasn’t well bred to be a proper bride. Reminds you of when you buy that shirt at the department store but then return it and get your money back because it wasn’t the right fit. As a society fighting for equal rights between the sexes, this gesture as polite as many defend it to be doesn’t give off the right messages all the time hence the interracial marriage scenario.
The world is in a mixing period where many are getting the chance to have mixed marriages and we are constantly swamped with social media images of what this generation has dubbed as ‘swirls’ . However ,the challenges experienced behind these happy -in- love photos are endless and only the strongest survive. You see ,African parents for hundred of years dating back to the pre-colonial era have always believed in the power of bride tokens. Not to pay bride price is considered arrogant ,rude and downright lack of appreciation. For a mixed couple ,the parents of the bride almost always expect their daughters support in the issue. If say the foreign groom isn’t ready to pay; the bride is expected to sulk, convince and beg their partner to pay up or break the engagement and wait for a suitor who is generous enough to appreciate her.
There is also the fact that whenever parents realize the groom is foreign the bride price shoots upwards just like a merchant would do if he perceived that his potential buyer carries an expensive aura. If the bridewealth was at 1000USD for an African man this would shoot up to 10000USD for a foreigner in the blink of an eye without them wanting to understand the grooms financial status. Another fine example of how the practice commodifies the woman.
There are a number of couples who have fought the system by eloping, getting married anyway or simple lying they would pay and not doing so.This however has come at a price; many have lived estranged from their African relatives, others have always been mocked by the ‘you were given away freely’ like a morsel and some have suffered constant tensions in their marriages by relatives constantly demanding money as an ‘you owe us’ reminder.
This article isn’t aimed at ridiculing Africans but ,at shedding light at how forcing these measures on people from other cultures that don’t practice them anymore paints an ugly picture of ignorance and misogyny. And for those thinking its an overreaction riddle me this, why don’t parents insist on paying up when its a mixed relationship between a foreign woman and African man? It’s always a case of how ‘their son has scored’ and not an issue of ‘giving thanks to the brides family’ as commonly claimed.
It’s time to stop de-valuing African women in other peoples eyes and claiming to be pro gender equity at the same time. Stop locking out African women for standing up to this custom and most of all, stop equating the value of African women with money ,jewels or livestock. This goes for all sorts of marriage alliances; interracial or non -interracial, let a new age dawn where couples can decide on their own tokens of appreciation for each other.
Written by Iman Katanu