For many years, in most African countries, various social tendencies remained practically unchanged due to strong traditionalist sentiments compared to Europe and the United States. Until recently, Kenya remained among the African territories with minimal statistical data discrepancies regarding its citizens’ marital status.
However, changes in family law that came into force in 2019 in Kenya, oddly enough, caused a significant increase in the number of marriage dissolutions and legal separations. According to Complete Case, the main change in the law on divorce, which took place in September 2019, was abolishing the mandatory minimum period of family life.
Previously, the mandatory requirements for filing a petition for divorce in the local court for spouses were at least three years living together. But for more than a year now, this fact has not been a deterrent for Kenyans, who have a desire to end their family life officially. This innovation directly affected the general trend since the total number of divorces increased by about one and a half times compared to the previous year and continues to grow in 2020.
Growth in demand for divorce proceedings in Kenya in numbers
In 2017, local courts in Kenya approved a total of 909 petitions for an official divorce. In subsequent years, the statistical growth was negligible. In 2018, this figure was 1009, and in 2019 – only 1108 divorce cases. While in 2020, as a result of the changes to the legal procedure, the total figure is already at 1300-1500 confirmed cases. The increase in the number of filed divorce applications in Kenya now occurs monthly and amounts to hundreds.
A leading statistical research institution in sub-Saharan Africa, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, based in Nairobi, recently released a statistical snapshot of the social and marital status of citizens. The research and analysis of the latest statistics of divorce in Kenya show considerable growth in marriage dissolution rates during the last five years nationwide. According to the data, Kenya’s total population has grown from 46.7 million in 2014 to 53.8 million in 2020. Since 2014, the number of married couples has increased from 12.6 million to 16.7 million in 2020.
At the same time, the number of divorces has risen significantly over the past five years due to the simplification of many legal aspects. In 2015, there were 10.5% of divorced couples among married people. This number has risen to 17.7% in 2020. This data is confirmed by CompleteCase.com, one of the most experienced and trustworthy preparatory online divorce services in the English-speaking segment of the internet today. As you can see, the simplification of legal procedures has caused an unexpected and unprecedented surge in divorce activity in the country.
Church, public morality, financial issues and other factors affecting the divorce rate in Kenya
While at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021, the total number of registered divorces, or those pending before the court, is predicted to be more than 2,000, the role of many constraining factors for Kenyans remains quite large. Among them are the already mentioned traditionalist moral attitudes in society, formed by several previous generations. Another powerful and influential factor is the church in modern Kenyan society. The religious life of the country’s citizens is still habitually tightly intertwined with any actions within society.
Arnold Kabiru, pastor and marriage counselor at Deliverance Church Kahawa Wendani, in a recent interview with the popular Kenyan newspaper, The Star, voiced some of the key factors, in his opinion, influencing the situation with the growing number of divorces in the country. He noted that objective reasons one may file for divorce include unfaithfulness, financial constraints, insensitivity to sexual needs, and lack of communication between spouses.
To lead a healthy marriage, however, Kabiru advises couples to communicate honestly in every step. “In case of an argument or difference of opinion between the two of you, choose to win your spouse and not the argument,” he said. “Finally, keep God first and children at the centre of your home. Commit to losing yourself to keeping your spouse happy.” Kabiru added that some traits might be red flags one should not ignore before tying the knot. These include abusive tendencies, lack of communication, and noncommitment to the union.
Instead of resorting to divorce, Kabiru advises couples to try counseling, improvement of communication, or team building. “If couples would seek to go either to pastoral or professional counseling, then divorced can be avoided altogether,” he said. “Teamwork is applauded and great benefits thereof. Marriage is an entity of “we can” and not “me can.” The children born in the wedlock is a sign of team spirit. Thus couples can join hands together and fight divorce together instead of tearing each other apart in the process.”
The results of some statistical studies related to the issue
A study conducted by Daystar University last year showed most couples file for divorce before their 10th anniversary. The survey sampled 1200 Kenyans and focused on 46 counties, with the exception of Garissa. The study also showed 42% of couples had divorced by their fifth anniversary, while 77% had divorced by their tenth anniversary. Only 23% divorced after their tenth anniversary. It also established a 10% divorce rate across the country.
Meanwhile, cruelty and adultery remain the top reasons spouses move to court to seek annulment of a marriage in Kenya today. And it’s worth mentioning that cruelty doesn’t just include physical abuse. According to the existing divorce law in Kenya, a marriage is irretrievably broken if a spouse commits adultery, a spouse is cruel to the other spouse or any child of the marriage, or a spouse wilfully neglects the other spouse for at least two years.