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Why Christians are against dowry payment abolition

 Hiram Gitau during Betyy Bayo's dowry ceremony.

An appeal by Atheists in Kenya for the government to ban dowry payment has elicited mixed reactions on various platforms.

The group that does not believe in the existence of God under the leadership of Harrison Mumia argues that dowry payment is an outdated practice that ought to be abolished.

In a statement, Mumia noted that for many years Kenyans have sat back and watched as notions of a woman’s worth are spread.

“They have watched as women are commercialised by their husbands who believe that after paying dowry, they are part of their property,” he said adding that Kenyans have equally watched as payment of dowry is presented as conferring the rights to use and abuse their wives.

However, the Federation of Evangelicals and Indigenous Christians Churches of Kenya has opposed talks about abolition of dowry payment saying it is both about African culture and Biblical.

The Federation’s chairman Bishop Samuel Njiriri explained that bride price is part of African culture and ought to be adhered to even by Christians.

The Stewards Revival Pentecostal Church lead preacher explained that each community has its own guidelines on dowry payment.

“But in some instances, we don’t go beyond what Christianity will not allow like blessing using alcohol. Other things such as paying dowry using goats and cows is acceptable depending on the community where one hails from,” the Bishop explained.

He added: “Dowry payment is captured in the Bible. Basically, it is a token of appreciation but it does not mean buying someone.”

At the same time, Bishop Njiriri explained that in most African cultures, parents cannot bless a child empty handed and that is why dowry is paid to appreciate the family for raising a child and educating her well.

He noted that it is understandable that those pushing for the abolition were non-believers.

But the Atheists noted: “The culture of dowry payment is outdated. Payment of dowry is a threat to a woman’s constitutional rights.

In particular, they said it threatens women’s right to human dignity, freedom and security, freedom from slavery and servitude and the right to personal autonomy.

The group appealed to the government to abolish and criminalise payment of dowry as a means of guaranteeing women’s rights and fundamental freedoms.

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