Wednesday, 1 November 2017

WOMAN CHALLENGES LOBOLA

A HARARE woman has approached the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the practice of paying lobola, saying it reduces women to mere “assets” that are open for abuse. Ms Priccilar Vengesai, a former Chitungwiza municipality chamber secretary, wants the practice to be abolished. Alternatively, she wants parents of both the bride and the groom to be thanked for raising their children well through lobola in the spirit of gender equality.

Vengesai filed a chamber application for permission to access the apex court directly with her bride price challenge. She argued in her papers that she once entered previous unions, but she later realised that her constitutional rights were being violated. Ms Vengesai said she now wants to remarry as soon as the court determines her contestation. Ms Vengesai, who is a lawyer, contends that women’s rights to dignity, equality and non-discrimination were at stake and that the court should be quick to declare the customary practice unconstitutional.

Couples, according to Ms Vengesai, should be allowed to live together as husband and wife without being compelled to pay bride price. If lobola should stay, Ms Vengesai said, it should be paid to both families. In the court application, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Happyton Bonyongwe, Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya and Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Nyasha Chikwinya were listed as respondents in their official capacities.

Ms Vengesai seeks the court’s green light to file a direct constitutional application for the abolition of lobola in the country. She outlined the basis for her lobola challenge in the court papers. Ms Vengesai said the Shona culture attached value to lobola and no marriage can be solemnised unless the man pays the bride price.

“I belong to the Shona tribe and I intend to enter into marriage as soon as this matter is concluded. Under the Shona culture, lobola must be paid for a woman before the marriage is acceptable in the family and the society. In scenarios where lobola is not paid, parents and relatives of the bride would not allow the parties to legalise their marriage under the Marriage Act,” she said.

Ms Vengesai said her experiences in previous marriages reduced her to an object,
“I did not participate in the pegging of the lobola price. I was never given a chance to ask for the justification of the amounts which were paid. This whole scenario reduced me to a property whereby a price tag was put on me by my uncles and my husband paid. This demoralised me and automatically subjected me to my husband’s control since I would always feel that I was purchased,” she said. Herald

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