When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

Price Of Your Daughter: In Congo, Costly Dowries Clash With New Values

In Goma, in eastern DRC, families looking to cash in on the biggest dowry are pushing young people away from mariage. Some young people chose to live as unmarried partners, others break up and most young women stay at home with their parents...

Praying for a peace and prosperous futures (babasteve)
Praying for a peace and prosperous futures (babasteve)
Clarisse Tantine

GOMA - "My life is going to change thanks to my daughter. I am going to ask for four cows. Each will be worth 2,000 dollars, and with that I'll buy a car!" Jean-Pierre, a resident of Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been thinking about this for a long time. He is explaining his project to the man who will represent him during negotiations for his daughter's dowry. These "spokespeople" have the last word: they decide what the terms are, and often settle the negotiations against the interests of the young groom-to-be.

It is a situation that upsets many young people who would rather live with their partner without their families' blessing. "I live with my fiancée, not my wife, because my in-laws were asking for an outrageous amount of money that would take me at least four years to save," says 29-year-old Theodore. "They didn't want the little that I had, and the waiting would be too long. So my fiancée and I decided to live together without their agreement. The rest will follow."

Many young women often argue in favor of their suitors. Theodore's fiancée, Yvette, acknowledges that as a sign of respect to the family, parents have a right to a gift, but says it shouldn't be out of proportion. "I followed my fiancé for two reasons: first for love, and then because he was willing to give the little money he had to my family," she says. "But my parents wanted more! If he gave them what they were asking for, how would he provide for my needs?"

She says she tried to explain her fiancé"s situation to her parents and tell them they were hurting her. "By asking so much money from him, you are making my life difficult. Give me a chance to get married. Otherwise I'll commit suicide!"

Unwillingly single

But other young women play into their parent's projects, by plotting against their future husbands. With her wedding approaching, Helene explains to her friends at the University of Goma how she sees it. "My husband has to give me a lot of money to prove he will respect me and consider me as important. And my parents will take advantage of it and buy land downtown," she says. "They struggled to raise me and pay for my education. They have to take advantage of the situation!"

Other family members are just as interested, like this uncle telling his brother-in-law "each member has to get something out of it. You must not forget that uncles and aunts are privileged beneficiaries. We must respect this custom in order for the bride to be blessed." This practice leads to rivalries between families, some of whom see receiving an important dowry as proof that the family is important.

Faced with high expectations, some fiancés give up. And the older these young women get, the fewer fiancés they find. "My marriage was cancelled because the dowry was too high. Two years afterwards, boys still neglect me," says Gisele. Some families are now ready to compromise to avoid having their daughter staying with them forever. "The world has changed. We shouldn't just focus on material things. Leaving our daughter without a husband isn't going to help anyone," says an older man.

Daughters are also increasingly offended about the symbol of the dowry. "It's a gift from the boy's family to the girl's family. But it isn't nice to sell me like a product. It's love that matters in a household, not material things," says Rolande as she argues with her father.

"We need to give young couples guidance without confusing them," says Joséphine Nabishusha, a renowned spokesperson for dowry negotiations in Goma. "We should make things easier for boys so that they don't feel the need to lie about their situation to our daughters."

Read more from Syfia in French.

Photo - babasteve

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Photo of a technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

A technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

Wang Xiaojun / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steal to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest