Bridewealth and Female Consent: Marriage Disputes in African Courts, Gusiiland, Kenya
Shadle, Brett L.
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From the early 1940s Gusiiland (Kenya) underwent a series of transformations that pushed bridewealth to unheralded levels. As a result, many young couples could not afford a proper marriage and eloped. Some fathers forced their daughters into marriages with men wealthy enough to give cattle ; many of these women ran off instead with more desirable men. In the hundreds of resulting court cases, Gusii debated the relative weight to be given to bridewealth, parental approval and female consent in marriage. Young people did not reject marriage, but fought against senior men who would ignore women’s wishes. Gusii court elders usually agreed with fathers and husbands but also believed that female consent did carry some significance.