A draft law that seeks to amend a 1987 Congolese law regarding the payment of dowry, and matters of polygamy has whipped up a storm in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The proposed law was tabled in parliament by an MP called Daniel Mbau in June. The lawmaker wants articles in the DRC’s family code amended to set a limit on the amount of money a man seeking to marry a woman should pay as dowry.
He has proposed $200 for people living in rural areas and $500 dollars for those in urban areas.
Currently some parents in the capital Kinshasa demand between three to five thousand dollars as bride price for their daughters.
The figure can go higher depending on the girl’s level of education. The MP says the Congolese tradition of paying dowry has been so commercialized that it has begun creating problems in society.
But many Congolese say there’s no reason to change the tradition.
“The payment of dowry is supposed to be symbolic – not a commercial affair. In the past, our parents used to pay for a sack of salt and that was all. But today, some parents are asking for so much. I attended a ceremony where a parent asked for an air ticket,” Remi Mulingati revealed.
Some Congolese were of varied opinions. They felt that matters pertaining to marriage and dowry were off-limit to legislation.
“How can we legislate matters of paying dowry? It’s supposed to be a gift. When my parents and I visited the family of my fiancee, they didn’t tag a price because marriage is not a trade. All they asked for was a symbolic gift in accordance with our culture,” Remi added.
“I feel honoured that my fiance visited my family and paid the dowry. He paid much more than the 500 dollars that the MP wants to be the maximum amount that men should pay. My parents and I feel very honoured,” Winnie Imana revealed.
The MP has also proposed the criminalization of polygamy – a practice that has been carried out by some Congolese tribes for centuries.