What it meant to marry a Bukusu virgin


[Photo: Courtesy]

Most African communities embrace dowry payment, as a way of appreciation for the family of the lady. It is a gift, and a man who pays it fully as expected, is respected.

In 2016, a civil society group in Uganda moved to the court seeking to declare dowry payment unconstitutional among other cultural rites.

The petition was dismissed and the group appealed the decision to the Supreme Court but the appeal was declined that it is an old culture that the court cannot interfere with describing it as a voluntary gift.

The Bukusu community in Kenya consider several things before they arrive at the exact number of cattle to be paid as dowry.

They include:

The education status of the girl

A girl that is a professional was believed to have consumed a lot of the family’s resources and hence the man had to pay dearly for that lady.

Gap between her teeth

They believe the man and his family have to enjoy the fruits of their sweat for life. A lady with a gap between her teeth was precious. Such ladies are very rare. The gap is associated with beauty. So the family demanded an extra cow for that gap which the receiving family acknowledged and voluntarily paid.


This was a venerated quality that beckoned an extra cow and a goat for the grandmother. Premarital sex or pregnancy was an abomination. Old women performed virginity tests.

Slept in the same room with her grandma

When a lady got married, the first night, the bride and the groom slept in the same room with her paternal grandmother. She slept on a skin in a corner somewhere, with a mission to report back the status of their girl.


The girl with a light skin colour made negotiations longer as her family had a right to claim for an extra cow for the skin. That was a sign that she had been fed well. Equally if she did not have a mark on her face, it was an arguable point.

Position of the girl in the family

The first and the last born were very expensive to marry. One was the first pain and joy in the family while the other is the uniting joy of the parents.

The last love

The most expensive girl was the only daughter. This was the darling of the father and a man can literally shed tears to let her go. Other hand, they were believed to be the spoiled ones. This was the argument on behalf of the man.

Pearl of a family

A hardworking lady was the pearl of a family. She brought a good appellation to the family. In dowry negotiation, they groom’s family could be told the chicken they eat are hers’ and show them the crops she had planted and the land she weeded. She was viewed as a source of wealth. So the man’s family was encouraged to pay dearly because her work was to fill the extra dowry.

Burden to the family

A lazy and stubborn lady was a burden to the family. There was a common joke that for such a lady, her parents were supposed to demand for the full dowry before she gets married. If she stayed there the family could realise her bad manners and declined to pay, negotiate for less or send her back.

Source: Ureport


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