Different African societies have different cultures, a case of an Original Luo Community is a good example who performs Dowry payment, popularly known as, “Bride Price” among other tribes in Kenya such as Kikuyu’s, Luhya’s, Bukusu, Abagusi, and others.
The word bride price does not signify the monetary value of the substance. If it was of actual monetary value, it could have been construed to mean slavery yet it is not. On the other hand, it does not show that it is paid according to the economic value of the bride. It is just a way of thanking, appreciation to the parents of the bridegroom, and acceptance of the bride.
Payment of dowry is usually an occasion of festive nature, not a hidden affair, it is usually done in broad daylight and well-publicized ceremony that gives pride to the parents, in-laws, and all other close relatives on both sides of the divide.
In some scenarios, the occasion may also be rejected by either bridal party if one side is suspected to be sorcerers, witches, or close relatives.
In most societies, the practice is considered as an old fashioned way of life and there are no major complaints about it, as it is in accordance with the traditions, however, dowry payment has not caused any manifestation of injury or dangers to those undertaking it whether economically, socially, and even politically.
Payment of dowry is one of the cultural and matrimonial practices among the Luo Community and this marks the issues of amatory, which includes entry into adulthood, for instance, marriage.
As a matter of fact, marriage is one of the most important conditions in human life. It is a condition where one encounters both good and bad, just as it has more joy and satisfaction in life. On a bad note, it does end tragically at times besides causing misery.
However, this can loosely be made attributable to ignorance of both man and woman in matrimony.
With the high rise in the come-we-stay marriages among the current generation, many people are shunning the Luo traditional marriage procedure. But they say whether you go through the backdoor, a culture will still catch up with you and at one point in your marriage, you will have to conform to the marriage customs especially when you marry a woman from the Luo community. The best way to go about it is to face it head-on and the earlier you do that the better as they say, better late than never.
The payment of dowry is not done for money or sale of a bride as we all know you cannot sell human beings. Slave trade was banned back in 1884 and cannot happen in this era and time.
Dowry payment is essentially a manifestation of commitment and agreement. It has no commercial value but social satisfaction as the word is not the price but usually done after an agreement known as “, AYIE” (I agree)in Luo dialect.
This “ayie” is a clear sign that you have agreed and accepted to marry their girl. During this visit, it is the elder who does most of the talking.
On the day of the visit, the girl’s mother is supposed to prepare for the suitor delicious meals such as chicken and beef from a cow which was slaughtered the same day. After the meal, you are required to give some money to the mother, father, elders of the girl’s family, youths, cooks, and uncles of the girl. The money is supposed to be given separately enclosed in envelopes. The amount is not usually specified and so one can give according to one’s financial ability.
The law does not allow you to stay until 6 pm so you will have to leave before 6 pm.
After “ayie” visit, the suitors are given some time to prepare and come for dowry negotiations. Customarily, it is supposed to be five weeks but nowadays people take longer depending on their agreements and preparations where after setting a date, the girl will be locked indoors three days before the due date. On the day of marriage after the dowry is negotiated and paid, the parents of the girl then release the girl to the suitor. The same day the suitor is supposed to spend the night with the chosen wife to confirm whether she is a virgin. The confirmation is done by the grandmother of the girl.
Marriage customs used to peg the number of cows to be paid as dowry at 12 but nowadays the culture is getting eroded and people are paying for much less than that. Depending on your financial capabilities, you are allowed to pay as much as you can depending on the level of education of the girl.
However, the marriage institution is given so much respect that those who do not go through the proper channel are not accorded the respect by their in-laws.
On the great day of Dowry payment, suitors always come in style, especially Luo men are known as men of”Nyadhi”( pride) nicely dressed up in a suit and a tie and one will come with at least two to three close friends or relatives to accompany him(with at least one parrot who will initiate conversations).
The suitors always are expected to arrive before sunset according to the old traditions and appear in the style that is, do not come in motorbike if you must alight at a distance away before you reach home if you don’t have a car, borrow from a friend but that is done differently in the current generation where suitors come any time of the day through any means.
After the ceremony, the suitor dishes out the envelopes following instructions from your buddies, and the suitors will thereafter be escorted by their sister’s in-laws, a day well accomplished, and thereafter the woman will follow after a few days and now they will be considered legally married.
Payment of Dowry is of great importance it helps parents and close relatives determine whether the bride and bridegroom are related as it calls for vetting on consanguinity, which is, checking on blood relationships. People do not marry their relatives. This must be checked at the point of paying and receiving dowry.
Bride price/Dowry in an African contexts also makes sure that things do not fall apart. From experience due care is taken in advance so that the marriage does not fall apart it strengthens the union of the two.
The section of Marriage Bill 2011 which interdicts payment of dowry is not in accordance with Article 44 of the New Constitution. The Article respects people’s cultures and values but this Bill negates that position.
Therefore this section of the Bill is unacceptable to the cultural beliefs of some African communities hence in conflict with Article 44 of the New Constitution as it does not respect the cultural beliefs of the people as expected, people have there own way of life and it should be embraced.
At the end of the day it’s always The culture of the people,”My culture,My Pride”.