By Philip Thon Aleu, Juba, South Sudan
April 11, 2017 (SSB) — A beautiful teenager was being married through a dowry competition. Three men declared their interest to marry her. She was just at puberty age and knew little about sexuality or what is entailed in marriage process. All she knows is that your husband will sleep with you and have sex.
If three people want to marry you, according to her understanding, they all want to have sex with you. This scared her. How can one girl go with three men at the same time? She thought about this situation and then thought about her vagina. Is it enough for three men? No. It is too small.
She kept this anxiety to herself and allowed the dowry negotiations to continue unimpeded. As is the norm in most Dinka cultures, the Bor bridegrooms declare their wealth (in cattle – and lately money, cars and buildings) as offers to win the parents’ hearts – and that “rich man” takes the bride.
There were many men following this beautiful girl at the end of every evening’s dances. And fierce competition ensued. Poor men disappeared in the dust and the real men, armed with cattle and made public their intention to marry her. Three men went public and demanded the girl’s hand in marriage.
The process often starts with young men (from the bridegroom’s side) meeting the fiancée and her sisters. This formal discussion is merely a show off – that the bridegroom has wealth and is just seeking girls’ approval to the next level of discussion; with parents. The future husband and his brothers, after being allowed by the girls, proceed to meet the mothers (in Dinka culture, a child belongs to the community) of the fiancée.
Though this convergence is a familiarization step, it’s crucial for the mothers to see the future husband of their daughter. The Dinka people ignore this mothers’ meeting as insignificant; but it’s here that the mother and the daughter decide the future sexual partner. (We shall return to this later). Next discussion is conducted with fathers. These steps are done in quick sequences. The fathers normally listen and inform the young men that ‘your message is heard. Go back and tell your father to send me a messenger.’
In fact, the bridegroom’s dad is knowledgeable about all the processes. He will send a messenger immediately, asking for his “taap” – literally meaning tobacco but formally a request for meeting to see one’s wealthy and formal consent to figure out the dowry and potential marriage between your children. Once the taap is accepted, a date is set and the discussion on dowry goes on and on. Fathers – from both sides, do everything from this stage. The fiancée and her future husband and their mothers aren’t involved to the end!
A crucial stage is often unpublicized. I mean the clandestine discussion between the mother and her daughter! The mother tells her daughter who she thinks should be her husband or the mother asks her daughter who she thinks is the best man – regardless of the wealth. After all, wealth does not count on bed. In fact, the mother and daughter make the final decision on the sexual partner. But fathers often ignore it and end up giving their daughters to the wrong bridegrooms. The consequences are dire and speak for themselves!
Back to the secret meeting between the mother and her daughter, one day, this particular chatting was taking place in darkness. The mother asked the daughter:
‘What are your thoughts about your marriage?’
‘I don’t know what to do mum,’ she said, seemingly having not internalized the question.
‘I am worried,’ she added.
‘Why are you worried my child?’ the mother asked.
‘I don’t know what to do mum,’ she repeatedly said.
‘Xen ca mur bion,’ she said. (Translated as ‘I think my vagina is small’ or more literally ‘I have doubted my vagina.’)
The mother busted into mocking laughter.
‘Xen ca mur bion ma’ma.’
Note: that is origin of the popular Dinka Bor’s saying ‘xen ca mur bion.’
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