Marriage is an obligatory rite of passage among the Dinka people. Every male is expected to raise a family and can marry as many wives as possible, but only if he can come up with the appropriate dowry.
Dowries differ from one Dinka clan to the next – ranging from tens of cattle in Upper Nile to a few hundred cattle in Bahr el-Ghazal depending on the merits or qualities of the bride-to-be in question.
Chief’s daughters fetch more cattle in the same way a chief’s son is expected to pay more cattle for his wife, just as rich families are expected to “pay” more. University graduates also fetch higher bride prices – a factor that could lead to a higher enrolment of girls in schools.
“Unlike other tribes, the Dinka people of Aweil pay ultimate respect to families who have paid dowries with cows, especially the bride-groom and his parents,” says Marach Athian, a resident of Malou Aweer in Aweil.
Amongst the Dinka, sex outside of marriage is prohibited; adulterers are despised and heavily fined and may be a source of conflict and clan fighting. Incest is generally abhorred.
After dowries are given to bride’s families, they’re distributed accordingly (uncle, cousin, aunt, brother, etc.) amongst the bride’s clan.