Despite KFCB Boss Ezekiel Mutua’s valiant efforts against same-sex marriages in Kenya, women in Emurua Dikirr, Narok County are allowed to marry fellow women.
The residents, many of whom belong to the Kalenjin community, invented a union between women in a bid to tackle childlessness. This is because barrenness and the lack of a boy child are looked down upon in the community.
According to Patrick Arap Tanui, a Kalenjin elder, the unique form of marriage is all in an effort to cure the desire of motherhood and also to boost ego among society members who feel proud when they have a warrior (boy child) in the family.
“Women are allowed to marry fellow women in the event one of them is barren or has failed to bear a boy child after several attempts,” Patrick Arap Tanui said as quoted by Nation.
One such union saw Esther Simatei, 86, from Tagitech village marry Nancy Chepkorir. Simatei has been married to William Tuwei, 98, for over 60 years now but they never had children of their own.
“When we lost all hope of ever siring a child in 1984, we agreed with my husband that I proceed to marry another woman who would give us children,” Simatei explains.
Simatei married Nancy Chepkorir in a traditional ceremony officiated by elders of the community. After dowry was paid to Chepkorir’s family, she moved to the new home and became Simatei’s wife.
“I have lived here for the last 34 years and have sired eight children for them, five boys and three girls,” Chepkorir says.
She adds that their lives are normal, “just like other marriages operate.”
Rael Too, 86, who also hails from Tagitech village shares a similar story. She was widowed in 1991 after over 20 years of marriage and was left with five daughters.
“I had five daughters but with the absence of a boy child there was still a gap as I would be left in solitude after all my girls get married,” Too said.
In 1996, she married Lilian Too and they went on to have seven children.
James Arap Kimeli, another Kalenjin elder explained how the women in such situations sire.
“Close family members usually agree on the man to be involved in siring children with the married woman then the man is approached. Once a deal is struck he is paid in terms of cattle heads or goats.”
Kimeli said that in such unions virtually everything is conducted in privacy, including the man to be involved in siring the children.
“The man has no right to claim ownership of the children.”
On the legality of the unions, Steve Biko, a family lawyer, noted that the marriages, which are locally referred as ‘marriage in Toloita’ are recognised in law even though they are not captured in the Marriage Act.
“The marriages in Toloita have been in existence in traditional African societies but as civilization is widely gained, they are beginning to get eroded,” Biko.