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Kenya’s legal same-sex marriages

Posted by Administrator on February 15, 2012

Juliana and Esther Soi married in the early 1990s

Juliana and Esther Soi married in the early 1990s

Homosexual acts may be outlawed in Kenya but there is a long tradition among some communities of women marrying each other.

This is hard to fathom in a country where religious leaders condemn gay unions as “un-African” – and those who dare to declare their partnerships openly often receive a hostile public reaction.

But these cases involving women are not regarded in the same light.

If a woman has never had any children, she takes on what is regarded as the male role in a marriage, providing a home for the younger woman, who is then encouraged to take a male sexual partner from her partner’s clan to become pregnant.

Her offspring will be regarded as the fruit of the marriage.

“I married according to our age-old tradition, where if a woman was not lucky enough to have her own children, she got another woman to honour her with children,” says 67-year-old Juliana Soi.

Sitting on armchairs placed in the shade outside her grass thatched home in Rift Valley’s Elburgon area, she tells me she married Esther in the early 1990s.

‘Children are like blankets’

Esther, who remained demure during the visit and too shy to speak to me, is 20 years her junior and together they nominally have five children.

“You know children are like blankets,” says Juliana.

“And one needs to have their own blanket so that you do not have to go to your neighbours’ house at night to ask for a blanket since he will definitely be using his at that time.”

This customary arrangement – practised among Kenya’s Kalenjin (encompassing the Nandi, Kipsigis, and Keiyo), Kuria and Akamba communities – has come under the legal spotlight recently because of an inheritance case currently before the courts in the coastal city of Mombasa.

In a landmark ruling, the high court last year recognised that, in accordance with Nandi customary law on woman-to-woman marriages, Monica Jesang Katam could inherit her late wife’s property.

However, the relatives of the dead woman – who was the older partner in the marriage – are challenging the verdict. A large house in Mombasa is at stake.

If the appeal fails, Franklin Chepkwony Soi should have no difficulty in claiming his inheritance rights when he is older.

“I was born here at Juliana’s house and Esther here is my mother,” the 20 year old explains.

“This lady Juliana married my mother because she wanted some sons to inherit her property.”

‘No sex’

He says he does not know who his biological father is – and is not interested to find out.

He adds that he has never experienced any social stigma and the small community in Elburgon accepts their family.

Franklin Chepkwony Soi (L) says he has not faced any social stigma because of his parents' marriage

Franklin Chepkwony Soi (L) says he has not faced any social stigma because of his parents' marriage

But his parents are at pains to point out that they do not have a sexual relationship.

“No! No! Nothing sexual takes place,” says Juliana, adding that the two women sleep in separate huts.

Pointing at Esther, she goes on: “By the time a woman like me decides to marry a young woman like this one, I must have reached menopause.

“At that stage any love activities are for the young woman.”

The couple laugh as she adds: “A woman my age is like an aged cockerel – too old to do anything.”

This mainly rural practice of a barren woman marrying another woman for the purposes of having children is slowly fading away.

In some communities in western Kenya, where modern fertility treatments are not accessible, polygamy is the preferred way of dealing with infertility.

A wife who is unable to have children will often encourage her husband to remarry so the family can have children.

But the Mombasa ruling could challenge this patriarchal approach and give woman-to-woman marriages a stronger footing in the modern world.

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16871435

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6 Responses to “Kenya’s legal same-sex marriages”

  1. mose said

    Homosexual acts may be outlawed in Kenya but there is a long tradition among some communities of women marrying each other…..but these women were never intimate unlike nowdays!!!!

    • wangari said

      i was wondering the same thing reading this article. actually i haven’t heard of this all my life in Kenya. The question though is how do these women manage their sexuality? this is very interesting.

      • Jack Chimodzi said

        Wangari this was not lesbianism as we currently know it, it was called “marriage” ’cause you got a fellow woman to have kids for you but of course there was no sex involved at all between the two women, it was more of a contract. This was common among the Kikuyu in the olden days. So don’t be cheated Africans condoned same sex relationships….

  2. Immaculate said

    Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Sin is not just homosexuality, fornication, masturbation, adultery any sexual sin outside marriage is falls under the SEXUAL SIN…I have been in America for sometimes, I was here in her glory days (I was at awe on how God has blessed her,people were so welcoming…peaceful, loving), and I am seeing her now, you just watch the news whats going on….sin separates us from God, that is why Jesus came to wash away all our sins…Sins robs us of God blessing spiritual now and in the future, physical etc ok…I seeing Kenya courting with stuff like Red District bla bla, I know some of us Africans we like so much to look at what America is doing and copy like cats…we need to not copy AMERICA….the GOSPEL has been preached to us, and we have no excuse…please lets us not copy America…let copy the good of America (again let the Bible be our standard) …America Greatest came from the way they feared God…please someone tell me what other nation on Earth put in God we trust on their currency…what other country followed the teaching of the Bible and even mirrored it to their constitution
    … and the bad let us shun it…let not court with the worldly ways!!!! Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people…….and Dear Body of Christ in Africa, if a leader is advocating things that are not in par with Bible, DO NOT VOTE FOR SUCH LEADERS….EVEN IF THEY PROMISE YOU STREETS OF GOLD AND THIS AND THAT DEVELOPMENT…Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith-PROV 15:6…..AND AGAIN Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people…I know may Africans long for change in our nations, but change must begin with I….ME…..

  3. Immaculate said

    But there is hope for Israel, North and South America, and Africa, Asia , Europe, Australia, and the whole world, that is found in Christ final sacrifice to atone for our sins, and victorious resurrection -Christ conquered victoriously our sinful nature, world and Satan and his emissaries (demons, agents)….JESUS CHRIST has done HIS PART…OUR PART LIES IN THE WORLD REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND…. our part lies in in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. 13If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. John 1:29 says, behold-look at the LAMB OF GOD who takes away the SINS of the World…..the book of Joel 2 bears similar instructions of what people of God should do when we find our selves in Famine, Wars, Sickness and Disease….especially if these calamities are as a result of SIN…judge myself, judge ourselves…..

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