Lobola is a cardinal role that men play in an African society but its increasing commercialization is making it not only inhibitive but also attributed as a reason for violence against women because the man now feels he owns the woman as property. Lobola is Zambian word for dowry, which as in many African cultures, a man shows gratitude to the family of his would be wife.
At a forum at Nyumba Yanga Primary School, in the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, young people were discussing causes of gender based violence and lobola was cited as one of them. It was a point raised during group discussions when men and women met in smaller groups and the issue was brought out by one of the women only groups.
They argued that some families are making it expensive hence providing basis for a man to feel that he owns the lady, hence can do anything to her including beating her. When he does this, he would not expect her to do anything, not even report it because she is his property and in many cases when they report, not much is done to end the vice by the man.
When Patricia (not her real name) was asked after she finished presenting whether she thinks ladies should step in, assist the would be husband to pay the dowry as a mitigating factor against the vice, she unequivocally said no. Her response receives a thunder clap from fellow ladies and some men. The session quickly livens as everyone is excited to contribute to the debate.
Thomas (not his real name) rises to support the idea. He argues that since we are living in equality times, where more women are calling equal treatment everywhere, it should also include the payment of lobola. He adds that this will go a long way to decrease incidences of violence against women because the man will deeply appreciate the contribution made by the wife at that elementary stage of their marriage.
To the ladies, while they are against commercialized bride price, their solution to it is to make it fair. They are calling for standardization of the appreciation to be given to their families by men in order to encourage it and convince more men to adopt it.
Their argument is supported by Bishop Alex who says that the commercialization of lobola has increased incidences where men avoid this core cultural practice all together and decide to start living with the wife. He says this leads to a loss to the family in general because if a problem comes up, it becomes difficult to resolve because families have not created a relationship, acknowledging the union.
Most men say they just cannot stand the idea of a lady helping them pay bride price. To them, this is demeaning of being a man. “A man must pay it. Come what may and even if he seeks assistance, it cannot be from the girlfriend. She will lose respect for you from the day you utter those words from your mouth,” one participants quips.