A dowry or bride’s price in Zambia is called ‘lobola‘. This is a pre-wedding practise 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.
Cows, gold, iron, money, land, fabric: all these have been handed over by a groom in exchange for a bride. Called a dowry, it has manifested itself in various forms across the world.
Unlike in Africa where a man pays the dowry, some European cultures make it the responsibility of the woman to provide goods or offerings to the groom’s family in order to be wed.
The practice of paying dowry may have largely disappeared in Europe, but it remains widespread in many parts of the world including sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent and p
arts of Eastern Europe.
For Africans, a wedding represents the loss of a daughter to a family, hence the loss of labour and someone to tend to younger children within the family.
A young man, in paying bride price, would give the bride’s family gifts of livestock to replenish labour and to act as a source of food; cows and goats therefore were and are still typically offered as gifts to the bride’s family.
The bride price, which is known as Lobola in many parts of Zambia, is paid by the family of the man to the family of the woman before the two are married off.
According to the tradition, this is done to compensate the woman’s family for their daughter and to show gratitude on how they raised her.
But over the years, its intended purpose is being lost. For some men, paying a bride price equals “buying” the woman, who becomes their property that can be treated in whatever ways they want, including beating.
The practice of paying dowry or bride practice came under fire in 2017 when a women movement reignited calls for the abolishment of the practice.
The Non-Governmental Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC), an umbrella body of women organizations in the country, said the practice puts women in bondage.
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