The Negative Consequences Of Dowry Payment On Women And Society -- By: Emily Onyango

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 30:1 (Winter 2016)
Article: The Negative Consequences Of Dowry Payment On Women And Society
Author: Emily Onyango


The Negative Consequences Of Dowry Payment On Women And Society

Emily Onyango

Rev. Dr. Emily Onyango is a priest in the Anglican Church of Kenya and serves as senior lecturer and dean of students at St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya. She has earned a PhD from the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, as well as a ThM from the Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission in Seoul, South Korea, and a BD from St. Paul’s University in Limuru.

In May 2015, CBE president and Priscilla Papers publisher Mimi Haddad traveled to Kenya to work beside one of CBE’s closest partners—Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education (EFOGE). One of her reasons for going was to participate in a public lectureship on dowry, offered by EFOGE in partnership with The Anglican Diocese of Bondo and Bishop Okullu College of Theology. Two of the several lectures given at that event have been adapted for this issue of Priscilla Papers and appear below.

Dowry, or bride-wealth payment, is a widespread practice in many African societies. In traditional African societies bride-wealth had some positive aspects but mostly negative consequences, for it stands at the foundation of patriarchy. In traditional African societies, bride-wealth was related to goods and services that a bridegroom and his kinsmen transferred to the family of the bride.1 Traditionally, this transfer involved the delivery of livestock by a suitor to the father or family of his prospective bride.

The negative consequence of bride-wealth is clearly seen in the debate on terminology. The term “bride-price” has the connotation of a purchase or financial transaction. Though it is always claimed that what we actually have is bride-wealth, in present day society it is more like a financial transaction. Bride-wealth has been highly commercialized, leading to many negative consequences such as women treated as property, the idea of daughters as investment, come-we-stay marriages, forced marriages, enslavement, family conflict, inferiority and dehumanization, and gender-based violence. Each of these several categories will be described briefly below.

Women As Property

Commercialization of bride-wealth started with the introduction of the cash economy. Bride-wealth is paid to individuals in cash, as opposed to livestock. Cash is a symbol of sale, so women are seen as articles of sale. This leads women to be seen as property and chattel. Parents put a price on their daughters; in many communities the standard payment apart from cash is a grade cow, water tanks, or other unofficial payments. The payment becomes even higher if the bride is educated. When women are treated as property, they ...

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