Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dowries: What Are Women Worth?

My last day in Kenya I was inavited to have tea with the "head honchos" of APDK. I made a little speech about what I had accomplished during the week, what I hoped to do with the material I had gotten, my fundraising plans, and my personal future plans. Then we got into some interesting discussions about dowries.

In Kenya and in Britain (the national chairman is British), it is custom for the man to pay his wife's family a dowry. Apparently in Kenya, this dowry continues for the rest of their lives and the responsibility of supporting the woman's extended family should they need to be supported lies in the man's hands. The women in the room argued that dowries for wives made the wives appear as purchasable property in the men's eyes. This was an interesting view because I’ve only heard about women’s families having to pay a dowry to the husbands and the women feeling bad because they felt that the husband needed to receive something to take them, that they themselves weren’t worthy enough, and they were a burden to both their husband and their fathers.

We also discussed whether there should be dowries at all. I was explaining how in the U.S. that concept is pretty much extinct, but they were explaining how it bonds families together and makes it harder to divorce because so much relies on the marriage. It even makes divorce pretty much obsolete in the countries with dowries. They explained this as if it were a good thing... which it could be, but it could also backfire and restrict a woman from leaving a an abusive marriage because her families' lives depends on it.

2 comments:

Kenneth said...

My experience in Indochina made me realize that my view on everything is so limited by my own background. It's not to say that my experiences in Korea and U.S. are worthless in any ways. Let's just say it was much narrower than I thought.

I hope you come home safe with a broader view on life.

Your favorte uncle, KB

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