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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does dowry give men the right to marital rape?

Today Maina and Mwalimu were again talking about ladies denying men their njyes rights. So they asked, does dowry give men the right to marital rape? Mwalimu did not believe in such a concept because your wife is not stranger.

My Human Opinion

People's view were as varied as can be. Some said that since the husband has paid the dowry, the wife belongs to the husband and thus he cannot rape what he owns. What was the man paying for? Some argued that there can be no rape in marriage. If njyes is a right then how can there be rape?

Rape is an extremely traumatizing and sensitive issue that should not be taken lightly.

Does marital rape exist? It does exist. Take circumstances like domestic violence, you can't tell me that since a man has paid dowry then he has a right to beat or injure (or worse) his wife. Therefore, there can be situations that can be considered marital rape, especially if violence was involved. And this is worse since it rarely gets reported.

Let's continue.

Define dowry. The sum of goods, money or services given by a groom or bride to the bride's or groom's family respectively upon marriage.

(For most, if not all Kenyan communities, it's the groom that pays the dowry so we shall assume that for the rest of the post)

Why pay dowry? There are many arguments, here are a few:
  • Payment of dowry is evidence that a man is serious about his intentions to make the marriage stable. And in some communities dowry is paid over the period of the marriage.
  • Dowry is a form of compensation to the girl's family for their expense in caring and educating her and for the loss of her services at home. In the ancient world a man was expected to give compensate his wife's father for the loss of her help (manual) at home.
  • Paying dowry shows that the husband is capable of supporting a wife. 
  • Dowry can be considered as a proof of love. The wife feels that she is worth 'something' and that her husband finds her valuable.
Why not pay dowry?
  • It reduces a woman to the status of being bought and sold. That's the point of today's topic. Dowry payment can encourage foolish but wealthy husbands to treat their wives as they please. Dowry is the euphemism for bride-wait for it-price!
  • The woman's family can set a high bride-price to eliminate 'unworthy' suitors. This can be a problem if the woman falls in love with an 'unworthy' man.
  • Dowry reduces marriage to an economic arrangement. This is especially true in arranged early marriages in some communities.
Whether there is or there no marital rape is something that should be looked at case by case. As mentioned above, when violence is involved then the woman (or man) should seek professional help and refuge.
      Anyway, please refer to an earlier post about should women deny their husbands njyes? where there are a couple of verses from Ephesians that give good advice about denying or not denying njyes.

      My Biblical Opinion

      As usual, whenever we talk about njyes in this blog we have to make it clear that it should be between a married couple only. If otherwise we continue to make you uncomfortable.
      Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

      We continue.

      The first 'dowry' story that comes to mind is that of Jacob and his two wives, Leah and Rachel. Jacob worked seven years for each of them.
      Genesis 29:16-30:
       16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."
       19 Laban said, "It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me." 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
       21 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her."
       22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.
       25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?"
       26 Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work."
       28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. 30 Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
      Consider the bolded parts. It's all about love. If you love someone this much, would you 'rape' her?

      For dowry to make sense, there must be a cordial relationship existing between the families of the bride and groom like in Jacob's case above (though he was deceived). Else, it could go like what happened to one dude called Shechem.
       11 Then Shechem said to Dinah's father and brothers, "Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I'll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife."
      Read the full story here

      Dowry should in essence be a thank you by the husband-to-be for the wonderful gift he is receiving as a wife. Despite the negative aspects of dowry, it's a good idea to pay dowry. Dowry is and should be a sacrifice. And you know what Mr. Sir King David said about sacrifice;
      24 But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."
            So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.
      I think this verse should shape our view about dowry. Husbands-to-be, insist on dowry.
      It's all about love. See you tomorrow

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