Brides’ Prices and Arranged Marriages in African Cultural Traditions
Women have been considered valuable in African cultural traditions since ancient times. In fact, it is not unique with Africa. The women have been considered a commodity all over the world during these centuries. They are supposed to act just to please their male partners. In religious mythology, they are considered the cause behind expulsion of Adam from the heavens.
Signs of these traditions and biases are found in all cultures. The African cultural traditions are not free from them. The groom is expected to offer a gift in cash or kind to the parents of the bride. This amount or gift is considered as payment on a past loan that needs not to be returned.
However, the eatables offered at ceremonies of the African cultural marriages are not considered part of the payment. It is just a symbol of hospitality.
Do African Cultural Traditions are promoting selling and purchasing of women…?
It may be so in past. In today’s world the African cultural traditions are followed to create a strong bond between two families of the marriage partners. The concept of selling and purchasing of bride does not attract when we see that marriages are really a matter of two families or tribes. Such a union can’t take place between families of a commodity and a purchaser.
Effects of Islam, Christianity and Western society are evident on African cultural traditions. The Muslim families have easily adapted the concept of dower right (‘Haq-e-Mehr’). But it is not a price of bride by any definition of the word. The husband and wife enter into an agreement that the husband shall support such and such things to live with the wife as a family. The dower right is part of the marriage contract between two Muslim partners. None from the family of the bride can receive this right of the woman. Even a husband can’t refuse to support the right even when no such clause was entered in the marriage agreement.
Arranged Marriages in African Cultural Traditions
The African cultural traditions are treasure of pleasing ceremonies, events and fashions. It is not a compulsion but a pleasure for the African people to observe their traditions.
The role of families of the marriage partners is very important. It is truer in the case of noble and rich families. Even the children are considered equally belonging to their parents and their ancestors.
That’s why most of the marriages in African cultural traditions are arranged by their parents. Some critics term these arranged marriages as forced marriages but Africans love their traditions.
But arranged marriages are not restricted to Africa. In many other regions the families have same kind of role in the marriage affairs. Though Western values are eroding the concept but arranged marriages may stay in Africa for a long time.
In such marriages the marriage partners feel themselves free from worries of the future. Though they have to face the hard reality as any body else but for the time being it is burden upon the families to arrange their marriages. In many situations arranged marriages are conducted where age gaps between bride and the groom are bigger.
Islamic View on Arranged Marriages
Islam does not reject arranged marriages. Some sects of Islam don’t accept a marriage valid unless the guardian of a virgin bride does not give his/her consent. However, the woman has right to refuse to the marriage arranged by her parents.
In Islamic law the marriage age starts at puberty. When no codified law exists, the families may prone to marry their children even before puberty. In such situations the bride may refuse to the marriage on her reaching at the age of puberty even when the marriage is consummated.
On the other hand Islam does not reject love marriage at all. Islam does not allow any kind of physical interaction between the expected marriage partners. However, if they decide to marry on reaching their puberty, Islam allows this very clearly.
(The readers are advised to read their land laws before deciding their marriage purely on the basis of puberty. Islam permits such marriages but Islam allows codification of such affairs. You are bound to follow your law of the land in this regard.)