This is… Dowry and Brideprice : Modern Kenya

In the introductory Dowry post, I mentioned the oft assumed nature of Sub Saharan African countries to mistreat females. In my experience that has not been quite the case. Oddly enough pre-marriage gender ‘roles’ seem to be far more fluid than those I came across in the United States or Europe. This is in no small part that the peoepl in question are living with the options available in a modern international city whilst having parents born and raised within the constraints of rural environments.

Kenya has only been independent for a little over half a century. Realize that for most of the world marriage has, and still is more of a transaction between 2 families to ensure the best possibility of genetic continuation. Dating, in the modern sense of let me get to know and ‘love’ you first, is arguably a feature of industrialization. It is a bit of a luxury that can be obtained by societies with an abundance of resources, how else would a potential young suitor have the means to engage in a courtship.  Arguably ‘love’ is still a rarity as many conflate it with infatuation, based on biological urges to mostly physical attributes versus considerations of ones virtues… I will expand on this elsewhere.

The prerequisite of asking ones parents for permission to take out their daughter is not gone from western society. Most women, independent of what they say, will feel a sense of ‘bleh’ if prompted to pay for anything whilst on a date (especially the first date, eventually some do pay.) As for the quaint ‘the person that asks should be the one that pays’ excuse, when you apply for a job and get it, do you expect to be paid? Discounting that flimsy excuse, how many of those that say this take on equal share of initiating relations?

There are set transactions between genders. We have had centuries upon centuries of evolution that have molded our courtship. These roles are also seen in our fellow life forms. Do not perceive these as complaints but rather realities of the human animal.

The proof of male utility for female reproductive access in western culture of spending a 3rd of a years salary is gaining prevalence. Pre-marital courtships may have more fluidity but the closer you get to ‘tying the knot’ the more you see how the vestiges of practices such as Bride price have slowly modernized.

Typical chips, goat-fry and salad from a decent NyamChom restaurant

Typical chips, goat-fry and salad from a decent NyamChom restaurant.

Many Kenyan women seem comfortable to pay for their own nights out and willingly throw in on group outings, if not sponsor them entirely to keep the night going. Yet as the lawyer in the previous post explained, when it comes to marriage they will still adhere to the very realistic expectations of finding a provider. The fact that Bride price is usually included into the equation, shows how tied it is to the institution that is essentially present to facilitate reproduction.

These are observations. This relationship existed before the advent of states or religions and is not limited to humans. As for the contemporary version, It is not called the marriage contract for nothing. A major part of it is a straight forward business transaction where one shows they can provide X in exchange for the Y the other provides. As in all business they can be positive and negative arrangements, and the situation does not always stay the same. We would all be better off to face the fact of the matter.

If your goal is to buy a Kilo of meat, you can do it at a random store or can likely get a bit more enjoyment out of the process by doing it at a place you frequent where you can have some friendly banter with the proprietor. On the subject of meat, a man taking his significant woman out to eat Nyama Choma is a common Kenyan date. A throwback to prehistoric times, and indicative of how meat is still not considered a daily staple in local diets.


I was doing research on the topic and will try and get some of the tribal practices out soon. I am likely to travel in some weeks and may need to divert time to other things though.

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