This post is in response to a question that popped up from the search engine on my blog. It seemed someone needed an answer to the question: “If a Nigeria woman gets pregnant, would her bride price be paid”?
As a Nigerian woman I would try to provide an answer to this question using some of my experience about the issue of Bride Price. First of all it would be important to know what Bride Price means in the Nigerian context.
Bride price is a required list of items the family of a woman expects the man who intends to marry her to present. This items include money, tubers of yam, cartons of drinks, bags of rice, salt and sugar, honey, umbrella, box filled with cloths for the bride and her mother depending on the tribe, basket of fruits, goat and more. This bride price items vary from tribe to tribe and family to family. It is a transaction between the groom and bride’s family which signifies an acceptance of the grooms desire to marry their daughter. It is the final deal that signs a woman over to be traditionally married to a man. A man who refuses to pay a girl’s bride price is believed to be a thief (stolen his wife).
In the Yoruba tradition, after the traditional marriage ceremony, the received bride price is divided into two equal parts: One half for her father and his extended family; the other half for the mother of the bride and her own extended family. So you find an aunt going away with a small pack of salt and sugar and she would be so excited that she had partaken of the traditional marriage rites of one of their daughters. A child is believed to belong to everyone in her family so uncles, aunties, and grandparents all see the child as their own. The act of paying a bride price is according the family of a bride their due respect; it is a token though sometimes a “neck breaking token” appreciating her family’s effort at taking care of her from childhood. It gives a sense of pride to the bride’s family that their girl had married, “right” and had not shamed the family by running away/eloping with a man. A woman properly married in this manner (by way of bride price) brings honour to her family in the community. It is what makes the marriage valid in the eyes of society and family (nuclear and extended).
Failure to pay a woman’s bride price before marrying her can mean she is reclaimed by her family. In fact in some tradition any child such a woman gives birth to belongs to her family and not the husband’s. Fulfilling the Bride Price obligation in a marriage transaction is a “big deal”, in Nigeria. In fact it is, “The deal”.
I believe the question I am attempting to answer in this blog is actually about whether the value of a woman drops if she gets pregnant and therefore the husband to be is not obliged to pay her bride price. In other words he can be excused or refuse to pay. I smile at this line of thought…as I remember instances where couples engaged and promised to be married to each are required to first of all plant a seed in the woman’s womb. There are some families who will not even consent to a marriage if such a woman had not being impregnated. In such a situation, the grooms family insists that the girl their son wishes to marry must prove her fertility by getting pregnant first or they would not consent to the union talk less of rising to the occasion to accompany their son to the lady’s family in order to pay her bride price. This had turn out to be a big tussle in some instance especially when the couple believe in “keeping the marriage bed pure”. On the other hand the family of a girl who believes in chastity and holds unto a girl being a virgin until her wedding night would certainly be disappointed if their daughter shows up pregnant before marriage. However this does not mean they would then refuse to accept her bride price from the man who impregnated her and intends to marry her. In fact getting pregnant is an excuse to quickly speed up the marriage process. You’ll hear things like, “Bring your man home quickly and let him and his people (family) come and pay your bride price/dowry ; don’t shame us”! And when the man shows up, her family is so relieved by this and the process is quickly concluded. In some other families, parents actually rejoice when she comes home to say that she is carrying a child especially when they had consented to the man she is courting. Again I reiterate that payment of bride price is the final deal that seals a marriage between two families traditionally. In other words families would not accept marriage between a man and a woman if the bride price/dowry had not been paid. I know of a couple who went ahead to get married without paying the woman’s bride price; her family gave the man hell. After a few years being married to each other, her father insisted that they must do “the proper thing” by coming to pay the required bride price.
In Africa the blessing of a father and mother in any marriage contract is very important. This is shown in their acceptance of the dowry/bride price from any man their daughter wishes to be married to. Payment of Bride price for the Nigerian woman who becomes pregnant is not an option but a Must Do for the groom to be! If you wish to know more click on this link about Marriages in Nigeria.
This post is not exhaustive in itself but i hope it is helpful.
Photo Credit: tony55.hubpages.com
By Adebisi Adetunji