When Elisabeth Nyirambarushimana from Mushonyi Sector – Rutsiro District was engaged in marriage, parents of both parties agreed that the groom will pay the dowry, while the family of the bride would also give something in return.
This was decided so, “Because the new family’s contract was set to be a community of property.”
In the community of property, a couple agrees to share their belongings, from what they earned prior to the marriage and during their lifetime.
Ten years later, Nyirambarushimana claims that her husband refused her right to property.
“My husband says that every property we have belongs to him alone since I did not come with anything when we got married,” she said.
“When I tell my father what I am going through, he tells me that he could not honor the promise because the family of the groom did not pay the dowry either.”
It is a new trend, not only in Rutsiro, but across the country. Traditional marriage roles are being reversed with families of the bride being required to ‘give something including, giving the bride on loan (dowry loan), among other things.
“We now have cases of families which give the bride out in marriage after signing a deal with the new family that they will work together to pay the dowry,” Florence Mukantwari, a resident of Mushonyi Sector, told KT Press.
In many other cases, the bride will be required to come with some property that would help to set the foundation of the new family or even, things that look like luxury, a responsibility which traditionally fell on the shoulders of the groom.
“I was not shy to take a bicycle with me into marriage during my time, but modernity kicking in, now brides have to take with them Television screens, solar energy panels and decent couches,” Claudine Mushimiyimana from Munini Cell in Kansi Sector, Gisagara District said.
During her time, ten years ago, a bicycle, a mattress and a radio on top of kitchen utensils “were enough to convince the man that you are coming from a well-off family, but she says, this is no longer enough.”
Other things a bride would take with her in Kirehe District include confortable chairs, mattress, and a sewing machine for those who did not attend high school and ‘may not get a white collar job.”
Like it is in Bugesera district in Eastern Province, there is no marriage in Kirehe district until a bride brings home a bicycle.
With a prolonged dry season, these areas suffer water scarcity, and, women have learnt to ride for several kilometers to fetch water. The bicycle ended up becoming a common transport tool in these areas.
In Rubavu District which neighbors with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), apparently girls are growing worried about their marriage at such extent that they can accept to forego every advantage in a marriage, provided that a man accepts to marry them.
This has created a funny practice, in this Western part of Rwanda labeled “Ndongora nitunge” loosely translated as “marry me, I will provide for myself.”
“Yes, you get that pride to be called someone’s wife and you hustle to provide for the family,” Jacky Uwamahoro, a resident of the area told KT Press.
The practice is very rampant in Rubavu, Rugerero and Nyamyumba sectors of Rubavu District according to our sources.
Girls Pay Dowry
The practice in Rubavu is a bit different from the one in Rusizi District, also in the Western part of Rwanda, where girls bribe boys to marry them.
“Girls are scared because they have been told they outnumber boys,” a parent who identified herself only as Niyomukiza from Rusizi district told KT Press that she knows a couple of cases.
Women in Rwanda represent 54% of the total population against 46% of men according to the 2012 population and housing census.
“When a girl turns 35 she starts losing hope and in case she has money she pays the boy to marry her.”
Jean Musuhuke, another resident of Rusizi said that a girl strikes a deal with a boy and fixes the amount of money to be paid as dowry. It is this amount that a girl gives to her future husband so that he can pay dowry to marry her.
In Kigali, Rwanda’s Capital City, the trend is more modernized, but ladies will in a number of cases contribute to the dowry or raise the whole amount.
Dowry is no longer to taking a cow to the bride’s parents, rather, in most cases-money is used to settle the dowry it is hard to tell who raised the money which is easy to get away with it.
The dowry is paid according to the economic and education level of the bride and it varies from Rwf500,000 and Rwf1,500,000.
“If the bride has university level and she has got a job, the dowry is fixed between Rwf1,200,000 and Rwf 1,500,000, but it can go as below as Rwf500,000 depending on the source of income of the bride,” said Christian Nzamwita, a resident of Kigali City who attends several weddings.
Like in other regions of the country, in Kigali, a bride also has a list of items she must take with her to start the new family.
“For example, you cannot go without a gas stove and gas cylinder,” Raissa Umwali who got married two months ago told KT Press.
“A wedding is nowadays very expensive. Had it not been for my aunt who organized a bridal shower for me, I could have hardly made it.”
The bridal shower is a new trend in Kigali, through which the a bride’s aunties and friends organize a fundraising ceremony for helping the bride lay foundation of her new family by donating various gifts.
Society is Becoming Corrupt – Bishop Rucyahana
All these trends are happening as the watch of society. The retired Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana said that some new practices in marriages today are symptoms of a corrupt society.
“It is a shame that a parent can bribe his future son-in-law to marry his daughter. A daughter is not a commodity neither a livestock for sale,” Bishop Rucyahana told KT Press.
“In some regions a girl cannot find a husband if she does not take a bicycle with her to her husband. Love should not be conditional.”
Rucyahana fails to find a name to the trends and suggests, “It’s neither of Rwandan Culture nor Christian.”
Rucyahana calls the new trends “moral corruption” that the society should contest.
Meanwhile, as per the Rwandan civil law, for a legal marriage to take place, the groom must pay the dowry to the father-in-law.
The newly wedded couple has to choose one from the three marriage contracts including the community of property, limited community of acquests or separation of property.
More than 90% of Rwandans choose the community of property.
Despite the common belief that a man in several instances is shifting responsibility, men have a different point of view and belief, in this capitalism era, partners need to contribute to the development of the new family, especially when they sign the community of property.
“It all comes out of what you agree with your wife-to-be or your father-in-law,” Gilbert Mutabazi from Kansi said during a community debate.
“Since the groom has to have a house prior to marriage and has to pay dowry of around Rwf800,000, it would be unfair if the bride comes empty-handed,” says Mutabazi.