A Swazi family can demand up to 15 cows for their daughter
The BBC's Africa Live programme looks at an age old tradition that is practised by many communities across the world - Bride price.
In Africa, it is still practised extensively and known as "lobola" in the southern parts of the continent, "mahari" in east Africa or "wine-carrying" among tribes in west Africa.
Traditionally, the prospective husband is expected to give a certain amount of money and goods, including cattle, goats, blankets or cowrie shells before a marriage is agreed.
Bride price or dowry was revered as a symbol of sincerity and good faith that brought together the bride's and groom's families.
But in some cases it is derided as a means to enrich a bride's family or a licence for a man to treat a woman as a "purchased" good.
Africa Live is asking: Is Bride price a burden to men and an insult to women?
What purpose does bride price still serve nowadays? Should it be abolished?
Join the BBC's Africa Live debate on Wednesday 1 September at 1630 & 1830GMT.
Use the form to send us your comments - some of which will be published below.
If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.
Read a section of your emails below:
Modern life has distorted the real meaning of bride
price. The huge amounts of money parents ask for
these days play a role in the domestic abuses that
visit our marital homes. Parents are using this as an opportunity to get rich and make up for money that they couldn't make elsewhere !!!
Bride price or engagement rings are old traditional
symbols that long served their purpose and should now
be stopped. If a man and a woman love each other, why
should they need to prove it with expensive symbolism?
Joseph Onek, Phoenix, AZ USA
Just as the wedding ring symbolizes unity between two
people, the bride price is a symbol of unity between
two families. Bride price injects a sense of
accountability into a marriage, giving both families a
stake in it. This helps to create strong marriages.
Bride price maintains respect for women, and
represents an open acknowledgement of women as
valuable members of society.
Driscoll, San Jose, USA
Bride price is the official rubber stamp of marriage.
Jackson Olufemi Taiwo, Oklahoma,
Modernization cannot deprive an old customary practice
of its genuineness. Dowry is a sign of love and
respect for both families, abuse of that custom is unacceptable. Bride price can even be anything as little as $5.00.
Larry, Texas, USA
Let us keep it for what it really is, a symbol of a
union between two families, and a gesture of sincerity
and good faith.
Derick Agbontaen, New
york City, USA
The world would be better off if for once it learned
from Africa and made marriage more meaningful. It
would be great to end the despicable way of life where
wives are extremely easy to find, and equally easy to
Kobi Otchere, Virginia, USA-Ghana
Before Africans start discarding their traditions,
they had better take a glance at the Western world
first. Just look at the dismal state of marriage in
the West today, and think again about abandoning your traditions!
Trevor Munroe, New York, USA
Bride price is the ultimate symbol of marriage.
Whether it is a ring, a house, or a couple of cows; a
man in any culture has to prove his worth in one way
or another to both the woman and her family. The
dowry is one of the first signs that he is capable of
working hard and sacrificing to provide for his
potential family. Women should feel honored by
Jennifer, Dallas, USA
Bride price or "wine carrying" as it is known in my
part of Africa cannot be considered a burden to men or
an insult to women. It is a way of putting the suitor
to test as to his ability to take care of the
wife-to-be, and eventually, children. In my
community we are proud as men to show our in-laws that
apart from being of age and emotinally fit, we are
materially able to support our new family.
Chuma Onyekuru, Houston, Texas
Bride price is traditionally sacred to African
culture. It brings respect, honor and dignity to women
and their families.
Matthias A. Idyu,
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
It's a gesture to the bride's parents that you cherish
your wife-to-be and is also a sign of appreciation to
them for allowing you to marry their daughter. This
practice is slowly becoming obsolete because it was
preserved for virgins, which is no longer the case
Oli Kapopo, UK
Bride price is acceptable so long as its reasonable.
The key word is moderation. It should be a token of appreciation and not a price tag, since no woman can be sold .
Celstine Osimhen, Lagos Nigeria
Dowry has lost its cultural value of the past. Some
men think they have a licence to treat women as slaves
because of dowry. Parents tend to encourage their
daughters as young as 10 years old to get married
instead of going to school.
Yasak, Lansing, Michigan USA
Dowry is an outdated practice that turns women from
human beings into property. Some men abuse their wives physically or emotionally, because they feel that they
(wives) are purchased commodities; like cows or cars.
Many of my friends also delay getting married, fearing
that they may be unable to pay the exorbitant bride
William, Kampala, Uganda
Bride price is a token of sincerity and good faith,
just like the Western engagement ring. Traditionally,
bride price was a bond that created a feeling of
trust, mutual respect and understanding between two
families. But these days it has become a burden to men
and an insult to women because it has become a means
to wealth accumulation.
The essence of the bride price is to make a woman
submissive and powerless. It is a shame and should be abolished.
Mokes Gama, Silver Springs, Maryland.
In the West, men still pay alot of money to buy a ring
to put on their fiancee's finger. Paying a price to
the family of the bride is equally a sign of good
faith. We cannot abolish this practice in the name of
equality. But let it be a matter of personal choice.
James Rich, New York,
Just like female genital mutilation (FGM), bride price
demeans a woman. It makes her the property of her father
to be 'sold' to another man. She then becomes a
'servant' of the buyer; bearing children, providing
sex, and performing household chores.
Should the exchange of rings be abolished in Western
cultures? Of course not! Just as there is nothing
wrong with the European-style exchange of rings, there
is nothing wrong with paying the African bride price.
But something is definitely wrong when men abuse their
partners in the name of the wedding ring or bride
Roland S. Weah, Liberian in the US
It is old tradition that still exists in Oromia where
I was born. It is practiced to show respect to the
bride as well as her family. Unfortunately there are
alot of poor men who can't get married because they
can't afford to pay dowry, and I guess that is the
bad side of this practice
Oromia/ Chicago USA
Bride price is our heritage. The purpose of it was to
thank the parents of your woman for giving birth and
bringing up this beautiful lady who you are going to
spend the rest of your life with. I know men who have paid this price and they are not complaining because the benefits you get from a wife;
her care, help and companionship far outweigh the
Collins Chidimuro, Aberdeen , UK (Zimbabwean)
Bride price is an African man's way of showing
confidence and appreciation to his wife. It is at this
time that the man ability to provide is put to test by
the bride's family. Surely if you can't afford a cow
then you don't deserve to marry! How would you feed
Paying bride price is a sign of the man's commitment
to the impending union. In Western societies that
commitment is demonstrated with an expensive diamond
ring bought by the groom.
Bride price symbolises a woman's value. Biblically,
Adam had to be put to sleep and a part of him used to
create Eve. He somehow paid for it. The payment also
helps to preserve marriages. In Europe, where dowry
payment is not common many marriages are falling
Kennedy Chama, Chililabombwe, Zambia
Bride price is a symbol of love and dedication to the couple.Where love is supreme, bride price will prevail.
Chris Mgaya /Tanzania.
In the central Sudan, dowry is known as 'Mugtaf',
meaning 'a wooden box'. It contains gold, jewels,
cash, cloths, shoes and foodstuffs. It is a real mini
market, which remains on display for a week at the
bride's house. Young unmarried girls then flock to
enjoy a party infront of the displayed box, as an
expression of best wishes to the institution of
marriage. These age-old traditions should continue.
Ahmed Gism El-Bari, Dammam-Kingdom of
In some communities, bride price legitimises a
marriage. Marriage cannot be valid without it . So it
is not a burden or insult for men and women
respectively, it is a proud cultural practice.
Daga Said, Seattle USA /Ethiopia
Bride price or Lobola as it is called in my country
should not be exaggerated or abused. Lobola is a
responsibility and not burden of the prospective
husband and his family. It is a gesture of respect for
the wife-to-be and her family. Lobola unites the two
families, and it should not abolished.
My dad has been married to my mum for over 35 years
now, and he has decided to pay 'lobola' this
September. It feels very good and we are very happy
for him since he is doing it out of his free will and
because of he respects the culture that shapes Africa.
Ghadie, Motswana in Leicester,
It's misleading to argue that bride price is a
'license' for men to abuse their wives or to treat
them as purchased goods. I know a great number of men
who never paid bride price but still treat their wives
like pieces of garbage. Are we saying there are no wife beaters
in places where bride price is not common, say the
Martin Curtis, Phoenix,
The groom does not actually pay a bride price. It is
his family that makes the undertaking. No responsible
family would accept bride price directly from a
suitor. The bride gets married to the whole extended
family, not just the groom. Consequently, such
marriages last because the partners do not just wake
up from a night's squabble and decide that the
marriage is over.
This tradition was put in place to ensure that only
serious people who are strong and hard working
marry. This has on no occasion
been a burden to men nor an insult to women but rather
gave respect and unity to both the couple and their
Monyoro Alex, Sudanese in Australia
There is very little difference between dowry and
engagements since both have a price tag. There is a
lot to appreciation for both practices. But dowry
needs to be redefined to elimate 'gold diggers', and
keep the principles of the tradition intact.
Anthony Daymond, Sydney/Australia
Dowry is in recognition of the struggle the bride's
family has gone through in raising her. It is a way of
saying 'thank you.' It is also a means of exchanging
wealth because you pay for somebody's daughter, and
someone's else will pay for your own.
Mathiang Ayoor, Southern Sudan, USA