OpEd, Politics

National gov’t should regulate the payment of dowries

By Theem Isaac Machar Akot


The term dowry in layman’s language defines any material payment paid by a groom to the family of a bride. It may be in terms of cattle, monetary, or lawful forms of wealth recommended by a particular community.

Payment of dowry varies from nation to nation, from tribe to tribe, and from community to community, depending on the regulations put in place by either the government or local authorities.

To speak of my nation, the dowry structure in South Sudan varies from one tribe of the sixty-four tribes living in the nation to the next.

This is in terms of what to pay and how the marriage is conducted. Of the language-speaking groups, the River Nilotes use cattle, goats, and sheep in their marriages.

While other tribes, especially in the Equatoria region, they use money to settle their marriages, all is normal; whether which tribe uses what for marriage doesn’t matter as long as it is considerable and recommendable. What matters is the payment method, and in this case, I am going to elaborate more broadly on how Dinka marriages are conducted.

In the past, payment used to be as low as considering what an individual could raise. That is to say, paying as many cattle as 50 was the maximum for a girl who they call “one of the most beautiful girls”. Unlike now, where the payment is abnormal and locally regulated, all the locals plus government officials are following the customary way of marrying, making marriages a share of poverty instead of a share of wealth.

I can’t specify the exact number of cattle one pays at a time since payment ranges from one hundred to three hundred cows. And when it is for a cattle keeper, but for a government official, he would also give cars and thousands of dollars besides the number of cows.

However, I call on the government to regulate it so that a specified number of cattle or amount of money is paid. I am not advocating for this because I am unable to pay like the rest did and as the rest will be doing. I am a Dinka; I can pay as many cows as demanded by my future spouse’s family. But as informed as I am, is it favorable? It is apparently not pleasant at all since the effects it poses affect not only certain settings but also the whole nation.

Of all the problems perpetuating the country’s suffering, the payment of high bride prices is also one of them. Only that, it has not been identified yet. This practice has adversely affected the nation socially and economically. One may complain about this finding that, in his community, marriage is very cheap and even free of charge. Please calm down. As you know, the predominant people in the government are Nilotes. This enlightens the transfer of problems from one setting to another.

In the areas inhabited by the Nilotes, the payment of high pride bride prices has an extreme life-grave effect in the localities; the civil populace across the country is a victim of this.

To elucidate the point, this practice perpetuates the cycle of communal fights. In the Bahr el Ghazal region, the two states—Lakes and Warrap—are tremendously affected by this. The seasonal raiding that occurs among the counties of each state or between the states is a greed for wealth brought about by the high payment of dowry.

In these states as well as other places occupied by Jieng, getting a wife is not an easy thing. It requires a man to work hard enough to meet the cost of marriage. And the worst is getting a beautiful wife. It is not just a matter of paying too many cows; it also involves competition. This is to say that anybody who has fewer cows is not entitled to have a beautiful, tall, young brown Dinka girl. Whereas the demand for a beautiful woman is every man’s dream,

As a result, able-bodied young men find it hard to get their proposed loved ones because a Dinka man does not give his daughter to a man freely, despite the competency, ambitions, and visions that a man may acquire. In addition, Dinka girls do not have the freedom to choose their life partners. The decision to marry any man lies in the hands of her parents. Therefore, all men are required to possess a number of cattle before they propose to some people’s daughters so that they can settle their marriages. The worst part of Jieng’s culture is that marriage is mandatory—no man chooses to stay single for the rest of his life.

In Unity State, youth cross to Bahr El Ghazal, and so do youth from Bahr El Ghazal, in order to go raiding. This practice does not only lead to the loss of wealth but also the wanton loss of lives. In Jonglei state, Murle and Dinka Bor yearly clash since youth from the two tribes timely cross to each other’s land just to raid. Many lives had been lost over the years.

Secondly, elopement causes communal hostilities in some communities of the Dinka. As Dinkas, we see our daughters as cows, and the unofficial thought of eloping someone’s daughter causes death. The family of the girl perceives elopement as a loss of a hundred cows because an eloped one fetches a smaller number of cows. Most of the fights in Bhar El Gazal are caused by this. The family needs the cows paid for so that the sons can also get married.

Economically, the nation is staggering in stabilizing the economic crisis caused by us. In South Sudan, the dominant in the government, as I mentioned before, are Dinkas, whose traditional mindset of marrying many wives is every official’s expectation. However, anyone appointed to a political post thinker, that it is his chance to squander the public funds for self-enrichment [to settle down his expensive marriage].

Buying up to three hundred cows, hiring a public place to conduct marriages, and building an expensive house cost a lot of money, which is meant for public funding only to see individuals laundering it to satisfy their needs. This gave rise to corruption, nepotism, and hatred among government servants. Development has come to stand still since these are the only aims.

In conclusion, I call on the government to put an end to the high pride bride price by stabilizing the number of cows to as low as third cattle for whom the call beautiful girls. This will make them affordable for everyone because getting this number of cows is not that hard compared to one hundred to three hundred. By achieving it, the government and the locals should work hard to ensure that this is made a legal policy. It is risking the lives of our young girls, who are forced into marriage. And perpetuates the cycle of hostilities as well as economic hindrances.

Have a blessed day!

The writer is a second-year student at the University of Juba School of Education.  He is reachable via email theemisaacmachar@gmail.com  /+211922218519



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