By David Maillu
Published May 14, 2023

Is bride price still relevant today? In my Akamba traditional setting, the bride price was a must for any man who wanted to have a wife. The value of a woman was so high that you could not be given a whole girl for a wife free of charge. You had to sweat in order to marry her. So, bride price was a test to the seriousness of the bridegroom. But the bride price had other values in the family.

The cost of bride price was set by clans but not by individuals. In my clan, a full bride price involved; first and foremost, the engagement 3 goats, female and male, and the third male for slaughter at the presentation. Thereafter, the accepted bridegroom had to pay 48 goats, two cows, female and male representative of the sex getting married, one traditional barrel of honey, in addition to foodstuff. The bride price different from clan to clan but the difference was small.


The bride price was not the property of the parents only. It belonged to the family. Bride prices from daughters were counter-used by the family for the bride-price of getting sons wives. Every member of the family was entitled to a share of the bride price. In return, the employment of the daughters’ bride price for sons was a social policy that, should the marriage of the daughter collapse, the sons were responsible for her complete social welfare if she returned to the parental home.


The Akamba version of the bride-price is actually universal in all ethnic communities in Africa. There is not a single clan in Africa which doesn’t recognize the bride price.

A very big problem has cropped up in today’s concept of the bride price whereby the clan standard of the bride price has been thrown out of window by individual parents who think they should decide what the bridegroom should give them. You have heard of stories of parents asking even for millions for their educated daughter. Furthermore, when that bride price is given in whatever amount, it becomes a personal property of the parents, not to say, dominated by the father. If the bride price is paid in cash, the father can take that to the bank or do whatever he wants with it without involving the family or even his wife. He can decide to buy himself a piece of land somewhere, a plot, a car, or go for a second wife.


The bride price is not any more a social assurance for the daughter. After she has been “bought,” if her marriage collapses, she is not wanted in her parental home because she is a financial liability to the brothers. In other words, she was simply sold out like an animal on the market and the buyer can do with her whatever he wants.

In other words, as we speak, the bride price has outlived its social value in many places. Consequently, it should be banned like the circumcision for girls should. Today, the bride price issue is a brutal exploitation of the daughter. Daughters should take responsibility is refusing to be sold by their parents. If it has to be accepted, it should be modified to include a written and signed contract by a lawyer specifying her social policy in the family in case her marriage collapses.