Gift exchange has been an important part of marriage rites in Nigeria. But of late there has been a terrible pattern of insensitive wedding list and overpriced bride price.
How much is your daughter worth? Is her worth represented by two kegs of palm oil, 10 cartoons of schnapp, 42 tubers of yam, fN500,000, N2 million or is she priceless? Well, I am asking this question because last week there was a heated debate on the social media over bride price. Chimamanda Adichie, a renowned Nigerian author and activist stated her opinion on bride price last week and the social media went buzzing once again. She said and I quote: “I think we should get rid of the whole idea of money in marriage, we are not selling anybody.”
To an extent I agree that the issue of exchange of money in marriages should be reassessed because greedy elders have lately over exploited this cultural practice for too long. The way some greedy uncles and aunties go about this in the village is very disgusting. I have seen some wedding lists that made me cringe at the items there.
The things some families demand is enough to feed a whole community and it is so annoying that many families see a wedding ceremony as a loot-sharing feast. No wonder many participants of these shameless acts perceive bride price as an indication that a wife was “bought” into the family. Honestly, sometimes I do not blame people who see their wives as an item they bought from the market because every procedure that goes into purchasing a product in the market takes place during these traditional rites. That is why women have little or no say in making decisions for the household. When families haggle back and forth over a human being like they are buying a goat in the market, it is simply patriarchy. I have attended very few of such ceremonies and I have noticed that these women don’t even have a say when the price haggling starts. After the negotiation has been made they don’t even have access to the proceeds that come from the arrangement. I have been in a traditional wedding ceremony where the wife broke down in tears because of what her uncles asked for was far beyond what the family of her husband had. Unfortunately, for her, she was an orphan and it was this husband that had helped pay her school fees when all her uncles were in no place to be found. These uncles all left her in the lurch when she needed someone to help her through school. They didn’t care if she ate or not but when it was time for them to share the “national cake of bride price” they all appeared like vultures.
I respect Nigerian culture a lot but I frown at the fact that some of these cultural practices are being manipulated to suit some gluttonous people who simply want to reap where they did not sow. I think these exploitations shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
From far back in time, gift exchange has been an important part of marriage rites and ceremonies generally in Nigeria. Usually, this involves the exchange of materials such as food items, clothes, jewelleries and money from the man’s family to the woman. But of late there has been a terrible pattern of insensitive wedding list and overpriced bride price.
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In the past, the tradition of bride price was used as a means of marriage recognition and a sort of shield against abuse for women. But these days, due to the commercialization of these marriage rites the tradition has lost its value. Since it now a proper business transaction, where families aim to make profits at all sides, resulting in abuse of women in marriages if they don’t perform up to expectation. A woman who has a contrary opinion to what her husband feels can’t express herself freely because she knows at every point her husband will rub it in and yell at her about how much he paid as her bride price. I have heard about abusive husbands screaming their lungs out about how much they paid on bride price. Moreover, I think that this limits the women’s independence and encourages unequal gender relations. That is why some men will shut their wives up and treat them like a piece of property.
Even in-laws are not left out, especially when the woman is yet to conceive. They make her miserable and tell it to her face that she is worthless despite all they paid on her head. Also, there are cases of men who have refused to take back their bride price because they know that if the bride price is not taken a divorce can’t take place. And we have had men who have taunting their wives to return their bride price when their marriages get sour.
Interestingly, the inability of many couples to pay the bride price has made cohabiting go on the increase. Many couples, who can’t afford the bride price now decide to live together and even have children without performing the traditional rites. I have heard of stories of men who loved their women but they take to their heels when they realized they are going to spend a fortune to marry the woman they love.
I understand that the more educated you are the higher your bride price and these women are expected to repay the price through being wives. These services include having sex with their husband without hesitation, at whenever he wants it, childbearing, doing house chores and cooking. In short a wife on a “hire purchase” is more a less like a glorified housemaid who bears your surname. The only difference is that this glorified housemaid probably is well educated, bears your children, dresses expensively, struts her stuff on heels and wears make-up
Of course, I understand the payment of bride price is a core marriage rite and many couples strive to do so as to escape being stigmatized as a runaway bride or as a casual prostitute. But I think some
of these irresponsible acts of exploiting a beautiful ceremony such as marriage should be scrapped or reviewed. There are many negative implications to this system and the bad eggs are taking it to their advantage. Why should anyone be paid for? Are we still in the slave trade era? Why can’t a couple just go to a court and get married and then live happily ever after? If care is not taken the next generation might rebel against this exploitation but if this marriage rite is made very simple and affordable for every intending couple, it will be preserved. There is an ongoing rebellion against bride price and if care is not taken it might succeed and unfortunately, this will be bad news for these covetous elders.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that traditional wedding ceremonies should be abolished. Oh no! That’s far from it because that’s my favourite part in every wedding ceremony but I think it s time to reduce the bride price or should be toned down or be reduced to just a symbolic thing. I think it is better that way and so everyone can marry properly and if you desperately need money from your in-laws look for a more honourable means of asking rather reducing yourself to just an exploitive scum!
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