In the afternoon today, I saw a number of Facebook posts discussing Court’s decision on the “sticky” issue of bride price. Having realized that some of them seemed to be misrepresenting the position of court by celebrating the “abolition” of bride price, I arrogated myself some powers to set the record straight.
The Supreme Court—the highest court in Uganda, has ruled that the demand for the repayment of bride price by the man’s parents or relatives from the woman’s family upon the collapse of the marriage is unlawful because it contravenes Constitutional provisions that uphold the dignity of women.
Here is an illustration: Imagine your sister got married in 2015. She stays with her husband for 20 years then they disagree and she wants to return home or move on with her life. Traditionally, the man is entitled to get back the cows, goats, sheep, tomatoes, Harrier, Sofas etc that he gave to your family two decades ago. Is this practical? Will these things still be there? Would your parents have kept them for all this long anticipating that their daughter would “misbehave” in 2035 and thus keep the goodies in a safe place? Would those who received those gifts even be alive? Even if they were alive, would they be in position to refund those things?
According to the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe who was part of the judges who made that decision, “refunding bride price compromises the dignity of women contrary to Article 33 (1) of the Constitution”
I agree with him. This practice is unsustainable, especially on today’s slippery economy.
It is also important to note that the Court DID NOT outlaw the practice of demanding for bride price by the woman’s family from the man’s side as a pre-requisite of customary marriage.
This in effect means that for all intents and purposes, bride price is still lawful and if demanded by thee woman’s family, the man has to pay.
So for most of us who have not married yet, we do not have a legal basis to avoid paying bride price. This is only possible if the woman’s family agrees to waive it.