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11 March 2014


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Hi Peter, tangna Wagai we dumno!

John - wagai wei!

The whole point is that people are not items that can be bought or sold. This also happened in England (see The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.) Sadly of course with slavery too.

Of course there are cultural traditions which must be honoured, but with changes made to respect human rights.

One prominent business man in Arawa, who paid for his wife in Buin, had a blockade in place for his Buin in-laws.

The day he paid his cash he said to his in-laws, "I am paying your high price for my love of your relative as you deserve it; and Arawa is turning into the centre of all activities on Bougainville and you will be running there for many vital services like health.

"But in your case none of you will enter my home in Arawa since I paid a high price."

He was telling me to apply the same reciprocal approach. But could not since in the patrilineal society they have allowed me to own a block of land.

Bride price is a cultural burden regardless of where you look at it.

In some societies, after paying bride price you are still expected to contribute to the families of the bride (wife).

I have two beautiful daughters and in the Simbu tradition, my friends tell me I will fetch a healthy bride price. But for what? I am bringing them up as my responsibility and when they are ready to marry whom they wish, I will only give them my approval.

But again if they marry into the Simbu society, and the groom's side wish to fulfil a cultural obligation, so be it. But I will not put a price on my daughters!

Daniel, in many cases there is no normal any more. Even culture now submits to whoever is financially able.

A groom sometimes has to flex his financial muscle to silence possible down talk.

What is 20 compared to 100, 150 elsewhere within PNG? Of course we're talking cash alone.

Bride pricing can be a burden.

"Normally the highest bride price charged for the Buin people is around K3,000." Yet Leonard was charged K20,000 and is "working on it because I have great respect for Bougainville culture”. But isn't this a greedy distortion of what has been said to be a 'normal' bride price in the Buin area? Is paying such an abnormal amount really showing respect for what has been stated as normal cultural practice?

Its the other way round in western countries. We get slugged when the wife leaves rather than when she comes.

I'm not sure what the record is but some high flyers end up paying multiple millions.

Peter Kratnz - you forget that K20,000 is only the cash payment.

Please reestimate your figures based on the number of pigs that may be provide as part of the customary exchange, which often takes place in addition to cash payments.

Using your example, with K20,000 a family might give, say 20 pigs, which are fully grown, at least 100kg and usually for village pigs that means they are around 3 years of age or older.

Add to this costs for material gifts and other food items and the market value for selling brides appears very lucrative.

However, Gedix et al (1998-2000?) suggests a 'modern' value of K50,000 for brides-to-be in PNG. But this estimate may be applicable to certain coastal areas nearer to Prot Moresby and very likely places where intensive land use and resource exploitation have modified the customary perception of bride value.

On the other hand there was anecdotal report of an estimated K2,000,000 cash bride price payment, not including a Mitsubishi Canter truck, a 17 foot boat with 40HP motor and additional household items paid by a highlander for his nambis bride. (Impressed yet?)

Personally though I like the story of the Sepik bloke who brought pigs, pukpuks a couple of dolphins a turtle and a shark to add to the bride price contribution.

It appears that in PNG, where brides are concerned, almost no price is dear enough.

That's not such a bad idea in theory, but why is it that some guys want to stretch the limits of reason?

Well there are around 3.5 million women in PNG. Say one quarter of these are available and of marriageable age.

That's around 800,000. Take the going bride price to be, say, K20,000.

So we get a value of around K16,000,000,000 (16 billion).

I say brides should be registered on the POMSOX. Would make a killing. Even more than raising piglets.

(And some of you literalists please take this as satire.)

If one combs the whole Solomon Islands chain from Buka, there are certain areas that value a woman at reasonable financial tags and at the same time there are others that soar too high and are intimidating.

Buin in Bougainville and the islands further south like Malaita Province have high prices and there are a number of reasons for this.

For example, most areas in these two places are lacking much needed natural resources and people are naturally aggressive.

Families tend to see a woman as a way to some prestige.

For me, I come from Kieta where women do not go on a financial exchange.

But loving Bougainville is accepting all her societies.

Oh Kranz that is a very initiative idea. I hope some things to be done in ways like this so the benefits will not be just for few days.

Rose says that traditionally she'd be worth around K50,000 in bride price. I can't dispute that. But she also says it's not just the immediate family who expect to benefit, but the extended family as well, who look forwards to feasts and pigs and beer etc. as part of the whole deal.

Then the clash of cultures kicks in.

I say, we need to change this tradition. It's not just about giving 100 people or so a good time for a few days, it's about really helping the immediate family with something practical.

She eventually agrees, after some thought.

"It's like a liklik aid project."

This is very interesting issue and very difficult to consider. It cuts to the heart of the different priorities of women's rights to be independent, and the preservation of cultural tradition. And when a white man is involved, a clash of cultures.

When Rose and I were married we were faced with a dilemma. Should we pay bride price? And if so to whom? (Her father was dead and she had been brought up by three different family groups - did we owe them all?)

To be fair no-one asked for anything. But we decided not to pay bride-price as such, but to help the immediate family build a house where brothers, their kids, Mana and sistas could live.

Happily this was acceptable to all and the house is well on its way to completion. I was happy that a much-needed benefit was being given to many family members, and they were happy that some aspect of bride-price tradition was upheld.

But I fear Leonard may be the victim of bride-price inflation. Maybe the result of the GFC?

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