LISTEN: Less marriages because of lobola

A recent study by Professor Dori Posel and Dr Stephanie Rudwick of the University of KwaZulu Natal found that the practice of lobola contributes to less marriages per year in South Africa.

Rudwick says the study suggests the reason for this is a combination of the commercialisation of the custom and poverty.

Poverty in rural society contributed to people finding it difficult to get married from the perspective that most Zulu people don't consider people married unless they have gone through the custom of lobola.

Dr Stephanie Rudwick, University of Leipzig

What came out in the research is a whole lot of people who feel that lobola is there to create a bond between the two families. On the other hand what the study suggests is that there are poor women who have struggled greatly to raise their daughters, some of them perceive lobola as reward or a kind of pay back.

Dr Stephanie Rudwick, University of Leipzig

Cultural expert and anthropology professor, Masilo Lamla, explains that lobola custom was never about attaching a price to the bride.

I don't like to use the word 'pay' because it means you are buying. Lobola involves cattle. And cattle amongst the Nguni people in particular is of major significance in economic, social and religious spheres.

Masilo Lamla, cultural expert and anthropology expert

Soul City Institute CEO Lebo Ramafoko weighed in to the discussion saying while lobola is a significant cultural practice amongst black people, it should not be ignored that it originated within a patriarchal society.

Lobola ritual is very beautiful because it is the coming together of the two families. In African culture it's not only about the two people getting married, it's also about two cultures getting together and rituals. But we also need to be aware that it was founded within patriarchy. Men and women are not treated equally for the mere fact that it's man who must come ask for the wife, and man's family that has to pay something.

Lebo Ramafoko, Soul City Institute CEO

It's founded on a presumption that to prove manhood you have money or come from a family that has money which is a patriarchal form of understanding of what is a good and real man.

Lebo Ramafoko, Soul City Institute CEO

Listen to the full discussion below, and callers sharing their lobola experiences...

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