Tradition is important, but when is its price too high?

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Tradition is important, but when is its price too high?

The true intent of cultural practices such as bride prices must be protected or traditions will be abandoned

Anesu Jahura

Of all events and rituals, marriage is one of the most exciting. It brings together different families and beliefs, and sets the foundation for a bond that can last forever. Once the question has been popped, discussions between families are held to iron out details and prepare for the event. These culminate in a celebration, often a wedding. In some cultures, however, this won’t happen until a bride price has been paid.

In many African cultures a bride price, or “lobola”, in the form of money or other items must be paid before a young couple can marry. Though there exist other cultures in which there are variations of this, in Africa it is usually the groom’s family that pays. This tradition has existed since time immemorial, but as the world progresses and times change, the practice is due for review.

Bride prices can be traced to biblical times, when marrying a virgin demanded payment. In Africa it predates colonialism. Then, patriarchy was the order of the day, with men having near-complete control of governments, social structures and households. In African villages, women were often the caretakers, responsible for housekeeping duties such as cooking and cleaning. They mostly stayed at home while the men worked. Because wives played such a vital role in African families, bride prices were paid whenever marriages took place. Though the concept made sense in showing appreciation for the role of wives, in reality it sometimes created problems, many of which still plague people today...

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