WONDER ! The Bride Price IIn This Community Can Make A Man Remain Single – Fin Out Why Here

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A dowry or bride’s price in Zambia is called ‘lobola‘. This is a pre-wedding practice where the groom is asked to pay an appreciation fee to his intended wife’s family for raising her well. This fee is usually in monetary form in urban cities, or in livestock in rural areas. Before the process, a groom must declare his intention to marry the bride by bringing plates filled with money which is called ‘nsalamu‘ to his bride’s relatives.

In Zambia, like many other parts of Africa, when people marry, a payment is made for marriage

This payment is known as dowry, bride price or lobola in Southern Africa. Paying lobola is a

customary practice in marriage where a groom’s family and kins transfer a certain amount of

money and goods to the bride’s family as commitment to marriage. Lobola marks the

beginning of marriage which is one of the rites of passage marking acceptance of the groom and

the bride by both families and society at large as a couple .

INTERESTING! The Bride Price IIn This Community Can Make A Man Remain Single – Fin Out Why Here

Lobola creates a relationship of lifelong commitment of mutual support between

both families of the bride and groom . In many African societies including Zambia, lobola is paid

by the groom’s family to the bride’s family . However, in some societies, it is the bride’s

family that pays the groom’s family, and this is broadly termed as dowry .

In pre-colonial societies, the practice did not require the payment of money. Alternatively, it

was paid in form of cattle or other animals and items such as some jewelleries, cans of local

brew or bags of maize. The items given symbolised a token of appreciation. Paying

lobola was a way of thanking the in-laws for bearing and rearing a wife for man . It was

also a way to compensate the loss of productivity that the bride was providing to her family and for economic costs incurred in bringing her up .

The practice of paying lobola seemed to have

operated beneficially for both the groom and the bride in the past. It provided formal recognition

for marital relationships including protecting the wives against abuse. When lobola is paid, a man attached value to a woman he pays for .

Lobola makes a woman an ‘official wife’ and seals a woman’s status as a worthy woman in

the eyes of all. It legitimatises marriage as it confirms the cultural symbolism of accepting the

groom and the bride into each other’s family Lobola is a unifying factor in binding and

cementing the relationship between the couple and the two families joining together. It is

fundamental in validating marriage in that it shows the seriousness and commitment of a

man. Without bride price the man would take it as a simple thing to marry and to divorce.

With the commercialisation of the bride price, its cultural relevance is becoming less clear in

present times . Kambarami findings reveal that lobola now has a paradoxical role in the lives of

women. On one hand, it places value on women while on the other hand it degrades them

by fostering male dominance in the home and relegating them to the position of appendages. It

is perceived that lobola gives a man all rights whilst the woman loses freedom and rights. The

woman is even further reduced to the level of acquired property especially in cases where

lobola was set at a high price. As part of the patriarchal nature of society, it breeds inequality

and widens the social power gap between men and women, thereby placing women in a

subordinate position .

A study by Hague & Thiara in Uganda, identified some adverse effects of lobola such as husband

abused their wives through rape as well as viewing wives as their properties, among other

things . Furthermore, Asiimwa in Uganda observed that the payment of bride price

reinforces masculinities and femininities that do not only create, but also reinforce male

dominance and female subordination and sometimes results in wife abuse . Through

the commercialisation of lobola, the practice has lost much of its traditional value in more recent

times as it has assumed some new features. Lobola seems to generate a lot of debate

to an extent where some call for its abolition on account that it reinforces gender inequality and

contributes to gender based violence. Zambia, like many countries in the sub-Saharan

region, have increased the payment of lobola in recent times.

Some tribal groupings where lobola was not traditionally paid have now taken up the custom . Niner also notes that the

payment of lobola is becoming prevalent in matrilineal communities that did not charge

lobola previously . In the past, the practice is said to have operated beneficially and gave

formal recognition to marriages and protection to wives against abuse. However, some studies

show that through payment of lobola, a wife now seems to appear as a commodity of the husband and parent in-laws, and thus they are subjected to abuse and ill-treatment .

Despite lobola playing a vital role in the institution of marriage, in the contemporary era, it has

become more commercialised . Most studies done examining lobola focus on how this

practice is conducted and the cultural significance attached to it. Some studies

have generalised the escalation of bride price and its effects on marriages.

INTERESTING! The Bride Price IIn This Community Can Make A Man Remain Single – Fin Out Why Here

There are also studies done elsewhere which show that making lobola expensive has a paradoxical role for

women including perpetuating gender inequality. Domestic violence is a common

occurrence in Zambia. However, there is little information available on the relationship

between lobola and gender based violence in Zambia. The main objective of this study was to

examine the influence of lobola on gender based violence among married women in Lusaka’s

Kamanga compound. It specifically sought to establish the perceptions of married women and

men towards the payment of lobola in relation to gender based violence in marriage


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