A look at Bulgaria's "bride's market"


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Beautiful and fascinating! Thanks for sharing.


Funny, they’re not coming up in my Google ads…


The average bride price is about USD$300-350.

Slavery is alive and well on planet Earth. Sadly.



If you watch the whole thing, it’s much more nuanced than that. The women are aware of the fact that they’re caught in the middle of wanting to keep their culture alive but also have a modern life. And the “bride market” is really just an open-air opportunity for the youngsters to meet and talk with each other (with parents hovering nearby) to figure out who would like to move on to an actual courtship.


A dower is traditionally paid in Roma families and the sum matches the average monthly income in Bulgaria. Neither the amount nor the tradition smell like slavery for me.


Sorry, but if you “auction” a human, it’s slavery. And worst of all they are raised to think it’s an acceptable practice, furthering propagating the practice. Pitifully wrong.


Exactly, and you can’t ignore that when you “pay” for something, you feel entitled to expect certain things, like virginity. It also sets up an unequal power dynamic in a relationship, wherein the husband and his family are literal owners.


the whole way of life is archaic and I cannot imagine a life my parents have a say in my choice of partner. but in the video it seems as if both brides and grooms to be have a huge part in the decision. I stand by my opinion - it’s not slavery (but should not survive as tradition).


I couldn’t keep watching after I heard the low access to secondary education and high percentage that can’t read. In that context, people buying fashionable clothes as “an investment in the future for their daughters” is grim.


Yes, Pimps do that to raise the stature of their collective stable/harem in order to garner a higher price, it’s really revolting.


This is one of the most ugly human tragedies within the oh-so-civilzed EU - the level of racism against Roma is horrible. Especially East European countries are very inventive creating bureaucratic obstacles and in West Europe the stealing gypsy (designated as “organized crime clans from Romania/Bulgaria”) are way too often used in political discourse. The reclusive traditional way of life does not exactly help.


Hm. This is kind of a delicate area. On one hand the idea of a dowry is distasteful to us in the 21st century, on the other hand calling it “slavery” is akin to calling Muslim purdah, the female wearing of the hijab, a form of persecution, so you risk looking culturally insensitive or even racist. You also risk watering down the whole notion of slavery-- I don’t think betrothed Roma women are “property” under the law or even under Rom cultural norms; I imagine if a wife was mistreated the husband would be hearing from his in-laws, and/or feeling their fists on his skull.


I’m not saying dowries and arranged marriages aren’t sexist. They are. I think characterizing them as slavery might be imposing our modern Western views on an Eastern European culture. Yet they are morally hazardous. Personally I think it’s a symptom of the latent sexism in deeply traditional cultures. Asking or demanding that those cultures give up their traditions has strong colonialist undertones. Asking them to evolve their traditions to be more supportive of individual agency seems a wiser course.

Roma comprise some of the most marginalized people in history. From their perspectives, a Westerner telling them their matchmaking system is slavery while doing little to alleviate the countless generations of systemic racism against them must seem deeply hypocritical. So long as their options and access to the very things that facilitate individual agency are restricted by institutional racism and poverty, saying they need to modernize and stop a practice with which they identify as a people will ring hollow. And from a purely practical standpoint, it won’t end the practice of dowries and arranged marriages; it will serve only to entrench them against neoliberal pressures to change. So if one wants to feel outrage for the sake of feeling outrage, I suppose that works. If one wants the people on whose behalf one is outraged to have greater agency, then I’d recommend starting where an outsider can build bridges, by addressing the prejudice against Roma before the sexism within Roma culture. Just my two cents. Sorry if I sound self-righteous. I could be as wrong as anyone.

And while I’m the last to say that we need to get our own house in order before we show concern for other fellow human beings, I was struck by something that happened at the 30 second mark in the video. A kid shot the journalist with a toy gun and wasn’t arrested or gunned down, a not unlikely occurrence here in America. Food for thought.

ETA: Nothing reinforces the bulwark or tradition, good and bad, quite like generational poverty. And nothing reinforces insularity like racial prejudice.



I <3 Broadly. Journalism that really touches me as a papa of a 4 year old girl.



Are bachelor auctions slavery?


It’s not up to you whether this should survive as a tradition or not; it’s up to the people practising it.


People entering marriage contracts with full mutual consent and a quirky orchestration is hardly worthy of your criticism.

The standard wage slavery practised in the US of A, where people will endure bullying and sexual harassment for years out of fear of losing their jobs and thus their homes is much, much worse.