In the last few years, the practice of dowry amongst the Sudanese people living in Australia seems to have lost it’s true meaning. Dowry is essentially any goods, money, live stocks and other gifts/items which the family of the bride request from the future husband. However, money and live stocks are the most common form of dowry. Taking this into account, this practice of dowry today seems like it’s a get rich quick scheme which had infected most Sudanese communities in Australia, making it harder for younger couples to get married.
After speaking with few young Sudanese Australian men on matters pertaining to dowry, I have come to realise that a lot of these young people, seeking to get married are very stressed and anxious about dowry; mainly because of how expensive dowry had become. For example, two close friends of mine had recently been asked to pay $75,000 for his bride. Also, another young man recalls paying $40,000. With a reasonable tone, one would argue that this kind of money would be a great deposit for a first home.
Such high prices and absurd demands for dowry is nothing new, but rather something that is getting out of hand since no one really speaks out against such cultural practice.
I respect the Sudanese culture/traditions, but parents and those who decide on the dowry need to realise that, we are in a different country–a country that requires decent amount of money for ones own sustainability. Also, since we call our-self Sudanese Australians, it is necessary for us to adapt to the Australian ways of living and move on from the primitive way of living.
I was only ten years of age when my family settled in Australia back in 2004. So, I basically grew up and was educated in Australia. In addition, living amongst other Australians, dowry is not something you would hear other Australians talk about. The subject and matters pertaining to dowry is almost irrelevant in this country. Hence, when it came my turn to pay my dowry, I thought, the Australians do not practice dowry, why should I. That was my attitude.
I recall on the stress and anxiety I had experienced leading up to the discussion on dowry with my family. After hearing many stories in the past about how high dowry prices could be, it made me sick.
At first, I found it difficult and was reluctant to follow through with this ancient practice. Also, I completely disagreed with how expensive dowry had truly become. To try and get out of it, I respectfully reminding Dad about my Australian citizenship status, arguing that dowry does not apply to those in Australia, that it is only applicable to those back home.
Luckily, my dad suggested that we arrange with Riyan’s parents to have the dowry paid back home in Sudan; considering the majority of her family who would be in charge of dowry requests were back there anyway.
Dad’s idea was brilliant. This meant I would possibly pay less considering the massive difference in currencies. I liked my dad’s idea, and since I had been absent from my home country for eighteen years, going back to see family and friends was rather exciting.
I am glad to have returned back home. My dowry settlement was only $13,000 including a mobile phone, oil and sugar (the largest amount possible). But seeing how poor but thankful people were in Sudan for the little you give them, I was satisfied that I was able to provide their request.
I encourage young Sudanese Australians, including any other nationalities that still practice dowry to ask questions and find out about the true meaning of dowry before paying. As seen within the Sudanese community, the system of dowry is being abused and miss used for ones own personal gain.
Overall, I hope this old system of marriage would change and reach the modern day martial system, were price is not placed on love. Also, for Sudanese Australians to stop charging so much for dowry so all young people would have a fair chance on getting married and enjoy their precious love life.