Bought and Bound: Bridewealth and Gender Inequality in Africa

Christine Horne, Washington State University
Francis Nii-Amoo Dodoo, Pennsylvania State University and University of Ghana
Naa Dodua Dodoo, University of Ghana

In this paper we turn to the norm of reciprocity to explore gender inequality in Africa. We argue that the payment of bridewealth from a man’s to a woman’s family triggers reciprocal obligations on the part of the woman. Failure to meet those obligations results in social disapproval. Thus as bridewealth payment becomes more complete (that is, as the proportion that has been paid increases), norms restricting women become stronger and social constraints on men’s violence against their female partners become weaker. We test and find support for our argument using a vignette experiment conducted with rural women in the Volta Region of Ghana.

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Presented in Poster Session 5