The other day I eavesdropped on a conversation between two men who shared the same seat with me on a bus.
From their talk, they seemed to be vexed by the shift of things, that all of a sudden society discourages cohabitation and encourages men to tie the knot.
The central issue in their discussion was the issue of paying the spine-chilling bogadi.
They itemized the disadvantages that accrue and cause the in-laws to charge more if the girl is a virgin, if she is educated, or if she once bore a child or children.
They wondered if they should trouble themselves with bogadi, or if they should just stay with their girlfriends as they have always been doing, without anyone giving a roar whether a Thebe has been paid or not.
In Botswana cohabitation has been an ageless practice that has become part of the culture to the point that it won’t hurt anyone if one decides to stay with the girlfriend for one year and kick her out the next.
As the discussion unfolded, they raised the issue of what should determine the bogadi.
Should they pay more for virgins, they debated.
Is a woman just a woman? They wondered.
They claimed that today it is difficult to come across a virgin. They also deplored the notion that virgins are found in churches.
One of them then wondered of what use a virgin really is, adding that the issue of virginity is over-estimated to the extent that people are charged unnecessarily higher bogadi, which comes with another “unnecessary” expense: a white wedding.
Then somebody raised the issue of the common breed of unmarried women with children, calling them “off layers”.
The argument being that they are “used property” and anything pre-owned, especially with goods that depreciate, has to have a going price to match.
I have never come across such ignorant chauvinists!
Having given birth more than once, does that make the person less human, especially considering that it is these same men you lied to the poor women? The discussion thickened as one brought up the issue of an educated girl. “How much should we be charged for the learned girls who have Degrees, PHD’s, and Doctorates?”
Looking at them, I doubted very much if any learned girl they had ticked off would look twice at any of them.
But they hammered away, wondering if the groom should reimburse the girl’s parents for her education, after all the parents were educating their own?
Not only that, chimed in the other, most of these girls are sponsored by some NGOs not by their parents.
The other one, appearing satisfied with the previous remark added his bit by saying that educated women are not the marriage type for “they have hardened characters”.
These characters were annoyed by another problem and that was the correct value that should be attached to girls by the parents.
They seemed not sure if bride price should be a form of profit-making, compensation or a token of appreciation and the cementing of a family’s relationship with another. They charged that daughters are being “commercialized”.
They wondered what happened to the notion of the bride price being simply a token, where it is just but a symbol of appreciating and thanking the other family for bearing and rearing the lovely woman whom they are marrying off. They agreed that men should continue with cohabitation, as long as the bride price continues to be unreasonable as it is now.
“If the situation remains unchanged, I will be a bachelor forever,” promised one of them.