15 May 2019

Kenya: How Outlawed Same Sex 'Marriages' Continue to Thrive in Kenya

Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
hand (file photo).

On May 24, 2019 the High Court will make a major ruling on whether to strike out or uphold a colonial-era law banning gay sex.

Other than the law prohibiting same sex marriages, in traditional culture of Kenyan communities, this practice is a taboo.

However in the Kuria community of Migori County, barren women 'marry' fellow women in a practice known as Nyumba mboke.

Nyumba mboke, allows for woman-to-woman unions, which have been taking place in the community for decades, despite the fact that gay marriage is criminalized in Kenya.

But there is little love and no romance in these kinds of marriages.

Another factor which has contributed to continued practice of same same sex marriages is poverty.

BARREN WOMEN

According to a documentary by Al Jazeera, hundreds of young girls in Kuria are married off to older barren women forcing them to drop out of school at a young age in exchange of the bride price.

Boke, a mother of a nine-month daughter got pregnant out of wedlock at a young age and soon after she was forced to undergo the outlawed Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) before being married off for four cows, to an elderly woman by the name of Gati.

"My father forced me to undergo FGM when I was very young - in class two. Immediately after that, I was involved with a man who made me pregnant and disappeared. My parents were very poor and decided to give me away for four cows to a woman with no children. She is now my partner," Boke told Al Jazeera.

According to Gati same sex arranged marriages are culturally accepted to enable women who are unable to have children, or those who have not yet had a son, can fulfill societal expectations.

COMMUNITY STIGMA

"My husband died and left me with no children after we had lived together for many years. "I was facing a lot of stigma from the community and was advised to get a young woman to help me get children," she said.

According to a report by American Pregnancy Association Infertility is a condition that affects approximately 1 out of every 6 couples.

The most common causes of female infertility include problems with ovulation, damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus, or problems with the cervix.

Age can also contribute to infertility because as a woman ages, her fertility naturally tends to decrease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) demographic studies from 2004 indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 30 percent of women aged 25 to 49 suffer from secondary infertility, the failure to conceive after an initial first pregnancy.

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