Sudanese dowry system keeps tribalism alive—I will show you how

Tribalism is a form of group or a community organisation common in Sudan. People within a tribe often express attitudes and behaviours that are grounded in a strong loyalty to their group. This results in a variety of unquestioned tribal beliefs and practices: people grow up believing everything they are taught within their tribe. This is evident when it comes to marriage, for instance. 

Amongst the Sudanese people, marriage is considered successful if one marries into the same tribe as one’s own. Dowry is more affordable, and you are welcomed and honoured by everyone within that community – you are often told you have made the best decision and that you are going in the right direction in life.

On analysis, the dowry system is strongly linked with tribalism. Why does dowry costs ten times more if you want to marry into a tribe other than your own? The fact that dowry price is ridiculously increased when marrying between tribes reveals the intention to deter individuals (specifically, those from other tribes) from entering one’s own tribe. The aim is a kind of racial purity; the result, segregation of difference. 

This same belief motivated those behind the White Australia policy.

It is about time that we, as a generation of educated Sudanese people, who themselves have suffered from the shadow left by Australian policies of exclusion, examine the dowry system, and the broader role it plays in tribalism. I do not wish to advocate for the compete eradication of it — dowry is part of our identity — but to examine it and make slight adjustments, with the aim of promoting our common humanity, instead of prejudice and disunity.

Marriage ought to be a system that brings families together and makes them united before God and the people. It is absurd that the practice of dowry has been happening for generations and has not been questioned. While we Sudanese people talk so much about unity, we should critically reflect on the support we give to a system that maintains segregation through marriage. 


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