‘I FEEL PROUD, HONORED AND VALUED’ - CHANGING TRENDS, EMPOWERING AND DISEMPOWERING ASPECTS OF BRIDE PRICE AMONG URBAN BASED BAGANDA OF CENTRAL UGANDA
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ABSTRACT Payment of bride price in Buganda has persisted through the waves of modernization despite predictions that such traditional practices tend to phase out in the face of modernity. Though it is a traditional practice invented to serve a traditional purpose, bride price payment still holds relevance even in contemporary times though not completely in its initial form. The bride price institution has been criticized for having a high correlation with domestic violence, violation of women’s human rights and for being a tool through which women are commoditized; thus, women activists have advocated for reforms or even complete nullification of the tradition. Nevertheless, bride price payment still holds cultural importance and is widely practiced to-date. The main objective of this study is to explore contemporary trends in bride price tradition among the urban Baganda of central Uganda, and their influence on gender relations and (dis)empowerment. The study explores bride price trends and processes in the past (pre-colonial and colonial times), as well as those during post-colonial trends to-date. The study also establishes inspirations and reasons for contemporary trends in bride price and how these changes influence dis(empowerment) and gender relations. Gendered opportunities and constraints that accrue from bride price are also explored in this study. In a qualitative ethnographic fieldwork in Kampala and Wakiso districts Uganda, data was collected from thirteen participants using in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and written historical sources. Using Kabeer’s and Mosdale’s theoretical conceptualizations of gender relations and empowerment, findings were analysed through thematic network analysis. Findings attest to many changes in the bride price institution, most notably the shift in choice of marriage partner and marital age. Decisions about whom and when to marry have largely shifted from the hands of parents and family elders into the hands of young men and women, though parental inputs are not completely ruled out. Findings also established that some processes surrounding the tradition have been abused and manipulated in contemporary times attracting unintended vices which downplay intended benefits. Notably: commercialization of the tradition constrains stakeholders especially the groom and gives impetus to materialism, opportunism, selfishness, and greed especially by brides and their parents. Factors like education, neo-liberalism, and influence of the media, decaying moral fabric and declining parental responsibility over children have been identified as some of the inspirations to contemporary trends in bride price. Gender roles in the bride price institution have also not remained the same; some previously male dominated spaces have been taken over by women while others have remained unchanged. Findings attest to increased active involvement of women in decision making, negotiations, resource allocation and general preparations of bride price in contemporary times compared to olden days. Overall, bride price was found to be a prestigious tradition among the Baganda that accrues respect, self-esteem, status, fulfillment, societal approval and recognition not only to the couple but also to their families.
PublisherThe University of Bergen
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