Why Bride Price/Lobola Should Be Abolished: The Root Of Wife Abuse In Africa

Last week I wrote an article about the rampant abuse of daughters-in-law by their in-laws in Zimbabwe, other African countries as well as Asian countries. Most of my readers responded by highlighting that the abuse was mainly fuelled by the practice of Lobola especially in Zimbabwean culture.  The contributions from my readers were quite thought-provoking for me, and I set myself to study more on the subject and write my opinion on it.

The practice of bride price, commonly known as lobola in Zimbabwe is when a woman’s family puts a value/price on their daughter’s worth, asking for a certain amount of money and or cows to be paid by the groom as the pledge for marriage. This practice seems to have evolved into extremism over the years, and now families are even charging more money for their daughters if they come from a well off family or are highly educated ie have a degree. The whole practice is now more like selling your daughter, and it’s a fair argument that this practice contributes to some men treating their wives as property as they would argue that they “paid a lot of money” for them.

In Zimbabwe, examples of extreme cases of publicized lobola payments are that of  Pokello Nare and Olinda Chapel Chidemo. Ghanian Elikem Kumordzi boasted that he had paid a staggering $25 000 for Pokello, whilst hip hop rapper Stunner boasted to have paid $16 000 bride price for Olinda Chapel. Such marriages in Zimbabwe seem to set the standards too high for the average man in Zimbabwe, which is now one the poorest countries in the world. A lot of men simply can not afford some of the unrealistic bRride prices charged by families, I have often read of men walking out of traditional marriage ceremonies because they would have been charged too much money.

What is also interesting to note is that in lobola cases of women like Pokello and Olinda, it is more likely that these successful businesswomen actually paid for their own lobola as they evidently earn a lot more than their “husbands”. In fact, according to Olinda, her rapper husband stunner could not even afford to pay rent or buy a headboard, how then did he pay the $16 000 lobola for her? It is now a common trend, especially among women who live in the United Kingdom or abroad, who are financially successful to pay for their own lobola. They simply give the man, normally a younger guy the money for their own bride price.

This is sadly putting a lot of pressure for lobola prices to rise in Zimbabwe, affecting the poor men who are seeking genuine marriages but are not able to afford the lobola.

Uganda has also had this cultural problem rise in recent years, where lobola is reported to be contributing to wife abuse, as men are also charged high unrealistic prices. Women Rights activists in Uganda have tried to get the lobola customarily law abolished, but sadly failed as this practice is very favored especially in the rural areas.

African women, especially majority of Zimbabwean women seem to be in favor of lobola practice. Sometimes they like to boast among their friends about how much their husbands paid for them. They take pride in having a high value, which adds to their social status. The more money your husband pays for you, the more the woman feels highly valuable. I feel Zimbabwean women themselves need to be freed from this primitive thinking. Marriage is supposed to be about partnership and love. Love itself is not worth any money. It’s free. A man is supposed to love you for who you are, not for how much he paid for you.

A man can prove his love to you by a gesture of a gift, such as an engagement ring that you wear for the rest of your life/marriage, not by paying your parents a huge lump sum. As for me, I would not want to be paid for my daughters, I just want them to experience true love and just be happy. I do not wish to gain financially from them, they are not property. I know its culture, but sometimes culture is uncivilized and oppressive.

I have to say not all African countries abuse the practice of lobola/bride price. In Ghana lobola is simply a token or gift to the bride’s family. A man simply brings gifts to the woman’s family, there is no charge, there is no value of the bride. A man can even pay as little as 20 cedis as a gesture of his appreciation of his bride. For me, that’s the true meaning of lobola.

I do hope that in Zimbabwe awareness about the effects of lobola can be raised to parliament level. A lot of women have been abused by their husbands and mothers-in-law simply because of the money which had been paid for them. Of course, not all abuse is caused by lobola, but it does contribute a lot to the abuse of women in marriages. Though it will be very difficult to abolish the lobola practice as it is widely favored especially by women, raising awareness on the oppressive practice could be enough to bring about a revolution and positive change. Families could start by choosing not to sell their daughters for a price.

 And it would also help if successful women stop paying for their own pride price, raising unnecessary unrealistic standards. Women are now buying marriages just to be called “wife”, which is a fulfillment of the scripture in Isaiah 4:1 “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.”

If I ruled this world, I would abolish the practice of lobola altogether. It does more harm than good. No woman should ever buy herself or be bought at a price by a man. How different is that from the concept of slavery?

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13 thoughts on “Why Bride Price/Lobola Should Be Abolished: The Root Of Wife Abuse In Africa

  1. Beautiful articles you have here. I followed the link under the New Years eve cross over…..article here. That has been my fight. Letting or people know how blind they are and are been robed daily by these fraudsters all in the name of miracles and breakthrough. All we need as a race is to work hard and smart! We need directions, diligence, hardwork and persistence to create our own miracles. God made us sufficient beings not empty heads who have to resort to religious gymnastics to live. I stopped going to church (I can count on my hands how many times I went in the last six years) because the trends have been mind bugging to me. I started to question God and think he was unfair, no He’s not! He loves us equally. The key is to have a personal relationship with Him. But to get know him through someone else’s distortion of the Bible. I hope you get more readers to come read your blog. I’ll be a regular visitor here. Keep churning out these beautiful articles. I love them.

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    1. The problem with Africans will always be that we put down our own culture. It is not cultural to ask for exorbitant amounts of money as lobola , nor is it cultural to abuse your wife or daughter in law.

      Abuse in Africa is rampant because we don’t name and shame abuse. If your husband beats you, people will say what did you do? You should not have provoked him! If a woman is raped – what were you wearing ? If your mom in law is abusive – oh its because they charged too much lobola! No , the culture of lobola is in itself being abused , its not wrong when applied correctly. There are cultures in Zimbabwe were asking for a high amount is considered uncultured and a sign of a family with no morals. So let’s not put a blanket statement on lobola

      Those that abuse their daughter in laws do it because they are abusive evil people , asking for even one US dollar as brideprice will not change their attitudes ,they will be abusive because that is who they are.

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      1. The problem with Africa is that people want to keep implementing the same failed solutions, that’s y not development is being achieved. Also every time people like you think that Africans don’t have the brains to raise issues such as the 1s addressed in this article without any “western” influence in particular American influence which is completely wrong…!

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  2. Bride price is culture, just like tithe and burn sacrifices on rocks which Jews practised, and must continue. If it was supposed to stop by the coming of Jesus, it was applicable to them(Israelites), because they, and not the whole world, had the culture of forgiveness of sins by their kind of alter sacrifices, something started by their ancestor Abraham.

    People ar dying in car accidents and I don’t think it is wise to campaign for the ban of cars. We have come to understand that we can’t do without cars. We wld rather start awareness campaigns for care, extra training programs and also set maturity and sobriety standards for anyone who shld drive to make sure we prevent unnecessary loss of lives on our roads.

    We can do the same for lobola. In Africa, families that come from marriages where all Lobola cultural requirements ar met, have a future peace that they enjoy that those who are lacking on this, never find.

    Do a further research on families who never had the cow in honour of their mother(mombe yeumai) paid, in Zimbabwe, and u can better appreciate this. The rest that is paid to the family in honour of the father doesn’t seem to give a lot of problems. The difference between these two is the same as for the common knowledge among Africans that ‘baba havana ngozi’, but if u offend a mother, she will torment u even in her death.

    The reason for this is that, the mother and the father hold different offices in the spirit. The father is the head(name) and the mother is the body. The head is spirit but the body is the effect – the glory. The effect is more easily noticed than the spirit, but the spirit slowly but surely bring you down too, though not in a dramatic way like the body(mother) would do.

    What do u consider primitive? Is it primitive if Africans practise their culture? The most successful families do primitive rituals or ceremonies and the modern they manifest is a fruit of the inspirational effect of those rituals. The practice of portraits of leaders on money is as old as the ‘Render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s’ fame’, by Jesus of over two thousand years ago, yet America, Britain and even Vatican honour it today.

    If u will not want to be in the dustbin of history, u must honor those who went ahead of u. You reap what you sow. To the ignorant, culture holds back, but to the wise, it inspires to forge ahead.

    Isaiah 4:1 you quoted, is for women who have come to understand what to live for as a woman, being the body of a head(Musha mukadzi). Without a man a woman is dead and the same applies to men, just as the head off the body, is death. It’s a mystery as Paul put it(Ephesians 5:32).

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    1. We not talking bout Jews her, Africa’s view lobola as purchasing women and that’s y a lot of my fellows sisters are ill treated by their in laws.. Girl side of the family is also to blame since most are charging an arm and a leg for lobola, girls are also to blame in some cases coz they at times influence their families to overcharge, that’s y I say to all my fellow brothers and sisters, prinup is the way to if you have accumulated your assets prior to marriage shiii, i ma do that…. Thank me later… ;?

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  3. I am Zimbabwean and am a man but there is so much i dont like or admire about my Shona culture.

    JEAN, you have raised a very disturbing issue in our age. LOBOLA/ROORA should be abolished. If it can not be abolished legally then i will just do it on my own and no one can stop me but i will be a start. This animal (Lobola/Roora) is one of the most realistic culprits causing immense pain and struggles in families today because it has gone out of bounds. Why should i ask for money or material things from a man who is asking for the companionship of my daughter to create more life? Why should my daughter feel that she is less than the man she is marrying? Why should my son be burdened to pay for the lack (financial or material) of his inlaws? What is the meaning of marriage or sexual union between a man and a woman, is it not for natures sake, to create more life? If a man can pay a bride price for the woman then naturally the woman must pay groom price for the man for the two are equall, none can exist or create more life without the other.

    Its utter nonsense to me that in this age we are still looking at our daughters as family fortune (financially/materially) instead of empowering them to be human beings first who can live an abundant life without even considering going into marriage. Can a man, armed with his penis create a baby alone? Can a woman, armed with her vagina create a baby alone? Is it so hard to see that there is balance? If balance exist is it not more important to awaken ourselves to this reality and create a new culture which appreciates the role which men and women play in advancing the cause of life without attaching material things?

    I have heard men who say, “I have payed so much for my daughter (clothes, medical fees, school fees, food, etc) so the man marrying my daughter should give me back the money i spend on my girl child”. And in response i always say, “Who in the world, is normal and responsible have not done that for their sons and daugthers?” It is our responsibility as fathers and mothers to do all the best for our daugthers and sons without seeking for any compensation from anyone – Lobola/Roora – included. Our wish as parents should be for our children to make the best choices which bring success to their own endeavours.

    Who on this platform is a father or mother who does not wish to do all the good things for their daughters and sons unconditionally? Must a currently unknown future son/daughter in law have to pay the price for raising your own daughter or son?

    The only constructive thing to do from now and the future is to teach our daughters and sons well so that they can learn to make their own choices and take full responsibility of their own choices, be it in relationships or any other issues in life without attaching any financial or material value.

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  4. Koolan, what u said is good. U want to start ur own culture without lobola. But, the question is, will it survive even in ur lifetime? I doubt it. Without roots, a tree just dries out, and be fit for the fire. You seem to be ignorant of the spirituality of life. It’s not only about what u want that matters, but also what ur spirit man wants.

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    1. Koolan u not alone I also feel the same way and am all about the abolishing of lobola…. Koolan is the seed of the tree and seed develops the roots first b4 the tree actually grows ensuring that the tree doesn’t die duh… Wtf is up with people and all this spirit being talk, these prophets that are spoutig from nowhere got you stuck on stupid..

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  5. Things dont change overnight but everything is subject to change in this world we live in. Those who are quick to embrace change advance and progress more rapidly physically and spiritually than those who resist change. I may not change anyone’s culture but i will certainly start a way of life that will seriously challenge the culture i was brought up in. Being a father of two daughters who are still in primary school education, i certainly have the opportunity to prove to myself and all open minded people how LOBOLA/ROORA has gone past its sale by date when my daughters are ready to mary. I will teach my daughters to love and respect themselves and to work hard for what they desire in life. They are in school now inorder to take care of themselves financially when they grow up. They are in school now inorder to empower them to make better choices and grow up to be responsible adults. By the time they are ready to marry if they choose, they will be empowered to know that they need a man as a companion, not to take anything from him or to expect anything from him but to be a life partner in sharing the joys, the beauty, the goodnes and solving the problems of life together.

    Culture does not make people, people make culture. Religion does not make people, people make religion. The only real agent for change in this world is us the people, we make or break ourselves. We need not be controlled by DOGMAS.

    @etsabasvi: What “spirituality of life” do you know that i dont know, you think you are more spiritual than any of us? If you think you are more spiritual and others are not then you should just know its an ILLUSION. Besides, there is nothing spiritual about LOBOLA/ROORA, its just an outdated Shona culture. Spirituality can never be fully understood by the carnal mind, we can only experience spirituality when we are no longer attached to anything in this material universe, culture, religion, politics, etc included. Jesus proved it to all of us, he even said only when you are ready to lose your life will you begin to experience full spirituality and demonstrated it by losing his and gained more.

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  6. I may not know everything about spirituality, but when I call people to acknowledge it in all they do, at least I am conscious of it, and would want others to do the same and live.

    One doesn’t necessarily have to die, the physical death, to be spiritual. A man is spiritual by faith, and it is displayed in his conduct in this life. Spirituality is in one’s mindset, which continues even in death(Phil2v1-2). When in the spirit – in physical death, one controls the physical, again, by faith(Heb11v3).

    If what u intend to do has no trace in history, that is what Jesus meant of a builder who built on sand. One who builds on what is started by others in the past, is like him who dug dip for a rock, to lay his initiative on. We know the fate of Jesus’ two builders’ scenarios in storms of life. One survived and the other fell(Matt 7v24-27).

    An example of change built on the past is when Jesus calls himself a temple, taking it from the temple of Solomon or even him being called the Son of David from Israel’s history. Another is the Ark of Israel, taken from the Ark of Noah. This is what it means to build on a rock. I am not against change, but the change has to have traits of life.

    The fact that bride price was practised by some who are now in the spirit, qualifies it for a spiritual practice because it evokes deep seated memories in Africans. The essence of WORSHIP is to evoke memories in our blood to invoke the spirit for inspiration and celebrating the fruit thereof to bring glory to our fathers.

    Worship with eternity must be centered on primitive rituals – on culture and in this case, marriage rites. Filled with modernity, worship is carnal and has shallow short lived effects. The Lord himself vows to bring it down(pulls up by the roots)(Matt15v13).

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  7. I enjoyed reading your article but just a little contribution. Ghana also have some sort of Lobola which we call Dowry. Every family normally has a list they give to the man and his family to provide. Saying that, they are mostly are not as expensive as Lobola. It has become some sort of traditional passed down hence still practiced. Some families might give an expensive list but it is very rare.

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  8. i’m looking to write a similiar article and I think you touched on the real aspects. Unfortunately now men use these huge amounts they paid to abuse women, by abuse i mean they think they should be treated like kings and expect you to be a perfect wife. which shouldnt be the case. keep writing and keep shining

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