Big Or Small Dowry Marriages

In the riverine areas of Ijaw, for instance, Okrika, there are two types of marriage. The incidents of each depends on the quantum of the bride price paid. Where the iya or "big dowry" marriage is contracted, the woman becomes part of her husband's family and her children belong to that family also.

But in the igwa, or 'small dowry' marriage, the woman remains part of her original family and her children become members of their mother's family arid inherit from it. But the distinction between these systems of marriage is rapidly breaking down. This has been due to social and legislative changes, of which the Eastern Region Limitation of Dowry Law, 1956 is the most significant.

The Law, it will be recalled, limited bride price in respect of customary law marriages to not more than sixty Naira. The effect is to blur the distinction between the bride-price payable in respect of lya and Igwa marriages. Other factors are the declining economic importance of the 'house' system and the acceptance of European and christian ideas of monogamy.