A female lawyer in Zimbabwe has mounted a legal challenge to abolish lobola, or the bride price, saying it is an outdated practice which reduces women to mere “properties”, the state-run Herald newspaper reports.
Priccilar Vengesai believes that if the custom is maintained, the families of both the bride and groom should pay lobola in the interest of gender equality, the newspaper adds.
She has filed papers in Zimbabwe’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, asking it to hear her case on the grounds that the practice violates her rights as a citizen.
The newspaper quotes Ms Vengesai as saying that she wants to re-marry, and does not want her experience in a previous marriage to be repeated:
“I did not participate in the pegging of the lobola price. I was never given a chance to ask for the justification of the amounts which were paid.
“This whole scenario reduced me to a property whereby a price tag was put on me by my uncles and my husband paid.
“This demoralised me and automatically subjected me to my husband’s control since I would always feel that I was purchased.
“I belong to the Shona tribe and I intend to enter into marriage as soon as this matter is concluded.
Under the Shona culture, lobola must be paid for a woman before the marriage is acceptable in the family and the society.
In scenarios where lobola is not paid, parents and relatives of the bride would not allow the parties to legalise their marriage under the Marriage Act.”
The term “lobola” is also used in southern Zimbabwe, but in Shona communities it is known as “roora” and while the tradition is to give cattle, this is now often replaced by cash – the amount is subject to negotiation.
There are several stages to the tradition and it is seen as a way of thanking the bride’s family for bringing her up, but there is no sense that the bride is being bought.