Analysis & Opinions - Political Violence @ a Glance

Going Stag: How Brideprice Influences Participation in Violent Conflict

  • Valerie M. Hudson
  • Hilary Matfess
| Sep. 20, 2017

Bloodied and shaken from his participation in the four days of attacks in Mumbai, India in 2008, twenty-one year old Mohammed Jamal Amir Kasab, confessed to police that he had only joined Lashkar-e-Taiba at his father’s urging — so that Kasab and his siblings could afford to marry. Kasab told police that his father convinced him that his participation would mean that the family would no longer be poor and that they would be able to pay the costs required to finalize a marriage contract. One of the police officers, seemingly ignoring Kasab’s response, pressed, “So you came here for jihad? Is that right?” Crying, Kasab asked, “What jihad?” Lashkar-e-Taiba deposited the promised money in his father’s account after the successful attack; for his participation, Kasab was hanged in 2012 by the Indian government.

Though brideprice traditions have largely fallen out of practice in the United States and Western Europe, roughly ¾ of the world’s population live in countries where marriage ceremonies demand an exchange of assets.This exchange, like other economic markets, is subject to fluctuations, inflation, and exogenous shocks. Furthermore, brideprice — the practice in which the intended groom provides his fiancee’s kin with goods or money prior to the wedding — often presents itself as a regressive tax levied on young men. This is because brideprice is generally a reflection of the woman’s status, not the man’s economic status, and is generally set at a community-wide level and adjusted upward for more elite women and girls. Particularly in societies that also practice polygamy, the dynamics of this marriage market lend themselves to a concentration of wealth (here measured in brides) in the hands of socio-economically elite men. The stratification of this measure of wealth presents itself as a situation in which the un- or under-employed young men in a community are unable to take a wife.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hudson, Valerie M. and Hilary Matfess.“Going Stag: How Brideprice Influences Participation in Violent Conflict.” Political Violence @ a Glance, September 20, 2017.

The Authors