Kenyan Archbishop Tells Men to Lower Dowries So Their Daughters Can Marry

Refugees gather to watch the arrival of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres at IFO-2 complex of the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp on May 8, 2015. Dadaab refugee camp currently houses some 350,000 people and for more than 20 years has been home to generations of Somalis who …

Nairobi Archbishop Cardinal John Njue has chastised Kenyan men, saying they are getting in the way of their daughters marrying by demanding unreasonable dowries from their would-be sons-in-law.

As a remedy, the Cardinal has urged Kenyan men to lower dowries so their daughters can more easily get married. On Sunday, the prelate commented on the issue—which has become something of a pet peeve for him—when presiding over Mass marking “Family Day” at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Buruburu. He said that the overly high bride prices are destroying relationships.

During his homily, Cardinal Njue recounted an incident in which he was obliged to intervene when a man threatened to call off his daughter’s wedding because he had not been paid the Sh 250,000 ($2,425) he had established as the bride price. In this case, the groom had to call off the wedding because he couldn’t afford the expensive dowry, he said.

The problem of expensive dowries, while virtually unheard of in the West, was occasionally a serious problem in earlier centuries.

Italy experienced serious “dowry inflation” from the 13th-15th centuries in urban settings such as Florence, which reflected demographic shifts as well as changing social norms.

To combat this, a Dominican cardinal of the time, Juan de Torquemada, founded the “confraternity of the Annunciation” to provide dowries for poor girls of good birth to marry honorably, which was also a remedy for keeping them from falling into prostitution.

The confraternity advertised its activities with a “marriage” ceremony and liturgical rite celebrated on March 25, the feast of the angel’s annunciation to the Virgin Mary, in which the girls received their dowries.

Dowry disputes are still a crucial issue in Indian society today, and several thousand women are reportedly killed each year across India in relation to unsatisfactory dowry payments from the bride’s family to the groom or his family.

While the dowry system is officially illegal in India, it still endures and dowry practices are believed to extend to all classes of Indian society.

The economic boom experienced by India over the past decade and a half has resulted in families requesting higher and higher dowries, and in many cases brides’ families are unable to satisfy these requests.

Violence often occurs when the husband or his family is unhappy with the dowry they have received, or if the family of the bride does not comply with further payment requests.

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