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BRIDEWEALTH AND FEMALE CONSENT: MARRIAGE DISPUTES IN AFRICAN COURTS, GUSIILAND, KENYA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2003

BRETT L. SHADLE
Affiliation:
University of Mississippi

Abstract

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.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

This article draws in part on my 2000 Northwestern University dissertation, ‘“Girl cases”: runaway wives, eloped daughters and abducted women in Gusiiland, Kenya, c. 1900–c. 1965’, the research for which was supported by a fellowship from the Academy of Educational Development. Support for the collection of further court files was provided by a 2001 Little-Griswold Research Grant from the American Historical Association. A previous version was presented to the ASA 2001 annual conference. For their comments, my thanks to Jonathon Glassman, Jim Campbell, Karen Tranberg Hansen, John Rowe, Lynn Thomas, Iris Berger, the audience at the ASA and the anonymous JAH reviewers. Special thanks to Richard Roberts for his comments and encouragement.
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