Bride Price – Lobola

Lawrence Temfwe of Zambia shares his thoughts on Lobola …

In what could prove to be a landmark case for Southern Africa, a Zimbabwean woman has gone to the highest court in the land to challenge the payment of the bride price. Priccilar Vengesai, a Harare lawyer, wants the Constitutional Court to deal with the matter. Her contention is that a bride payment (or lobola) leaves a woman subject to her husband’s control. In the paper she has filed, she, contends that “women’s rights to dignity, equality and non-discrimination were at stake and that the court should be quick to declare the customary practice unconstitutional.”(http://www.herald.co.zw/woman-wants-lobola-abolished/).

In September, Jubilee Centre sponsored 5 young people from the Chifubu Network of Churches’ Junior Parliament to Seychelles (a small island off the coast off east Africa). It was an exchange program with National Youth Parliament of the country. During one of the cultural discussions, the youth from Seychelles heard for the first time about the bride price. The young women and men of that country could not believe that there was such a thing in Zambia. One narrated, “It is like going to the grocery store to pick up a product.” Ms. Vengesais argues that a woman is reduced to an object. The young people of Zambia could not convince their counterparts from Seychelles that this practice dignifies the woman. Three young men and two young women are now asking: What is a Christian response is to the bride price, especially in our context where prices are us much as K60,000 ($6000)?

I am not a good example to this debate because I did not pay the bride price. I had long before disagreed with the practice and had talked with Martha about it in the past. When I proposed and she said yes, we were in agreement that I will not pay bride price for her.  When her father heard that her daughter was going to get married to a ‘priest’ (he is Anglican), he was so happy. Further, when he heard that I would not afford bride price he told my wife’s uncles that there be no bride price “because my daughter and her husband are going to serve the Lord.”  When I heard the news, I told my wife to be, “The Lord paid it all.” WOW.

At the Global Leadership Summit in Lusaka two weeks ago, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, shared in her interview with Bill Hybels that, in her experience, when a girl demonstrates leadership qualities she is considered “bossy.” However, when it is a boy, he is assumed to have leadership qualities. She stated, “I believe women can lead more in the workplace. I believe men can contribute more at home and I believe this will create a better world.” After her talk participants were broken into groups to discuss her interview. In the group I visited, one of the women said it would be very difficult for Zambian men to contribute more at home because culture teaches us that the place for a woman is in the kitchen. She further stated that it will take a man to stand up against such a culture and such men are rare and women have no power because they are sold as if they were slaves.

As the church, we know that the first family did not have to pay bride price because God brought the two people together and gave the wife as a gift and helper to the man. Love was to be the bond not ‘lobola’ and the goal was oneness. If we understand marriage as a gift from God, there will be no room to think that ones’ sex is superior. Our focus as the church or family ought to be the happiness of the two God is bringing together. The church in Southern Africa must have a second look at whether bride price really does reduce women to mere objects that are open to abuse. Paul tells us that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28,29).

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