A report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released on Tuesday, January 17 suggested that women from Murang’a County had the highest number of sex partners in the country.
At 11 per cent, women from Murang’a were the highest to confess to having more than two sexual partners in the last 12 months.
At 28 per cent, women from Murang’a also topped in the category of female respondents who had most sexual partners that were neither their husbands nor men they lived with in the same house.
Murang’a was followed by women from Kericho County (27.9 per cent), Uasin Gishu (25 per cent) and Nandi (23 per cent).
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) was conducted between February 17, 2022 and July 19, 2022.
‘Alcohol to blame’
But what could be the contributing factor to women from Murang’a having multiple sexual partners?
Dr. Alice Omariba, a sociologist and Dean of the School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences at the Murang’a University of Technology, told The Standard that Murang’a men abandoning provision responsibilities could be pushing women to infidelity for survival.
“Poverty is a threat to monogamy. When men can’t provide basic needs for their spouses, women are likely to stray in order to provide food and shelter for themselves and their children,” said Dr. Omariba.
The sociologist said in Murang’a County, most homesteads are headed by women because the men have either abdicated their responsibilities or fled their matrimonial homes.
“This has given rise to a highly matriarchal society in Murang’a, where the woman can do whatever she wishes without being necessarily questioned,” said Dr. Omariba.
The lecturer said it’s about time the boy child in Murang’a was empowered to correct the current relationship dynamics.
“Young boys need to be raised by role models who lead a proper life,” she said.
Dr. Omariba further said high levels of alcohol addiction in Murang’a County are causing men to abdicate their responsibilities.
“Alcoholism depletes financial resources, energy and alertness. When a man is constantly intoxicated, it becomes impossible for him to continuously provide basic needs because he spends most of his money drinking, and at the same time it becomes difficult for him to meet his spouse’s conjugal needs,” she said.
In November 2020, the then-Murang’a County Commissioner Mohammed Barre said alcoholism among men was affecting population growth in the county.
“When we discuss population in Central region, we cannot forget to mention the impact of alcoholism on growth and the welfare of families. Some men, who are drunkards, have neglected their families, leaving all chores to their wives,” Barre said on November 23, 2020, in Murang’a Town during a consultative forum to collect views for the revision of population policy.
The county commissioner further said that most men in Murang’a aged between 25 and 45 had shirked their duties, thus burdening women with family responsibilities.
This, Barre said, was forcing Murang’a women into birth control to avoid having many children that they are unable to take care of.
At least 72.7 per cent of the sampled women in Murang’a County said in the KNBS survey that they were using at least one form of contraception, making them feature among women in counties that have highly embraced contraception.
At the same time, the gender-based violence in Murang’a, especially violence meted out on men, was extremely high, with the county listed among the top four physical violence-prone counties in Kenya in the recent KNBS report.
Barre’s November 2020 remarks echoed these findings. He said at the time: “Statistics demonstrate we have many cases of gender-based violence that are attributed to alcoholism. This has also led to the breaking of families.”
Murang’a University lecturer Dr. Alice Omariba summarises the causes of women cheating in Murang’a to: alcoholism, the need to provide for children, drug and substance abuse, men’s abdication of responsibilities, emasculation, and higher libido in some women than in men.
“When some women are not sexually satisfied at home, they stray in search of that satisfaction,” said Dr. Omariba.
Jane Kamwaga, a women’s group leader in Murang’a County, said the KNBS report paints a grim picture of broken families in the area.
“In Murang’a, most food crops have been destroyed by monkeys. This forces women to go out and work. When the women are out working, their spouses are, in most cases, drinking alcohol. This makes the women develop some resentment towards their partners. The resultant frustrations lead to women straying, husband-battering or the ditching of marriages altogether,” said Kamwaga.
‘Why we cheat’
A female resident of Murang’a County, [name withheld] who is 34 years old, admitted to having multiple sexual partners who help her meet her financial needs.
“I’m not highly educated. So, chances of landing a well-paying job are extremely slim. I put up a grocery at Saba Saba Market, but it failed to pick up. Left with no other choice, I had to entertain several men in order to foot my bills,” said the mother-of-two.
Another woman in Kenol, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she abandoned tea-picking in 2020 and put up a shop that made her come in contact with different men.
“Some of the men seduced me, and I found it difficult to resist them,” she said, stating that she has slept with “several of them”.
“They have really helped me to be financially stable,” added the 42-year-old married woman, who has three children with her husband.
Another woman who also spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity said her spouse drinks heavily, making him unable to fend for the family.
“I have to entertain a few men to raise money to feed our two children,” she said.
‘KNBS report untrue’
Murang’a County Public Health Officer Muthui Gitonga, however, refutes the findings of the KNBS report, saying the research was “conducted in only one part of Murang’a” – Kenol area – and therefore it’s not representative of the entire county.
“If it’s true that the women in Murang’a are that reckless, then we’d have a high number of sexually transmitted diseases treatment in our county hospitals. Speaking from a point of authority, I’d say the number of women or men seeking treatment for STIs in Murang’a remains significantly low,” Gitonga told The Standard.
According to the Public Health Officer, the survey was conducted in Kenol, which is a far-flung area bordering Thika Town in Kiambu County.
“Chances are high most of the female respondents interviewed in Murang’a come from the neighbouring Thika Town, which is a metropolitan area that might have a higher level of moral decadence,” said Gitonga.