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  • Writer's pictureChristine Kix

Why Some African Cultures Need to Let Go of the Bridewealth Custom

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

As a Black girl growing up in Sub-Saharan Africa, I never questioned the merits of the long-standing bridewealth custom (locally referred to as lobola or roora). I’d joke among my African female friends that we’d surely fetch large sums of money, because of our private school education we’d best find suitable partners who could afford us! Lobola was simply just another fact of life and, dare I say, something that I looked forward to participating in one day.

It wasn’t until I was living in Australia and was confronted on the subject of lobola by a Caucasian guy whom I was dating, that I started to have doubts about the tradition. “It just seems like buying a person,” he’d said. “No, you misunderstand the culture,” I smugly replied. “Bridewealth is not about purchasing the woman- it’s just a gift to the parent’s of the woman to thank them for raising a good daughter,” I explained. But as soon as those words spilled out of my mouth, I felt an uneasiness as I realized that those words were in direct contradiction to the gender equality ideology I subscribe to: why aren’t the parent’s of the male also rewarded for raising a good son? This question prompted me to rethink the lobola tradition that once seemed so logical and so normal to me, and to rediscover its intended purpose and meaning.

The Pro-Lobola Argument

“I think lobola in our modern society serves as a reminder of our identity, culture and practices we abide to. Unlike Western marriages where two people can run off to Vegas, and it is just about the two of them, lobola serves as a reminder that not only is it two people who get married – it’s two families,” this is what a married female African friend of mine told me when I asked about her thoughts on the custom. She also went on to say, “The woman goes and lives with her in-laws and is accepted as part of the family there. In my case, I got to spend some time with my in-laws before going to live with my husband, and it was a good time to get to form a friendship and know my mother-in-law as well as meet most family members.” ...

Excerpt from post originally published on Madame Noire.

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