Many would-be spouses have gone their separate ways due to weird cultural practices dictated by their partners. Tales are told of urbane couples who rarely or never set foot in each other’s rural homes due to strange cultural norms enforced there. Take, for instance, a woman named Stacy Natasha* who confesses having been to her husband’s rural home only six times for the entire eight years they have been married.
Her reason: “I hate their culture. He is from Western and they have many strange and unnecessary cultures. His people banned me from setting foot in their home, after I refused to take our second born child for what they termed the mandatory shaving of his first hair.
Elsewhere, strange as it may sound, there are Kenyan women married to fellow women in partnership arrangements. Although similarly classified as same sex relationships, it is not labelled as lesbianism since no intimacy is involved. Although in decline and highly shrouded in secrecy, these marriages involving same sex partnerships still exist.
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A number of barren Kenyan women, stigmatised and sent away by their husbands resort to this kind of arrangements. Get this: these ‘female husbands’ read from the heterosexual script by wooing beautiful women who tickle their fancy and then taking control of them. They pay dowry, get married and sometimes even hire or seek out agreeable men to secretly donate sperm to their wives. The ‘female husband’ then masquerades as the social and legal father to the resulting children.
It is this kind of arrangement that years back had local tongues wagging in Kapsundei, Uasin Gishu County after it emerged that an elderly woman in the area was not just married to another woman but to four of them. Differently put, she is a ‘polygamist’, giving men a run for their women! Would you believe that?
Marriage to a man failed
Well, one Elizabeth Chemasunde, 92 had been married to a man in Kilgoris, Narok County. Unfortunately, for ten years the marriage failed to bear any children. Chemasunde was accused of barrenness and consequently stigmatised. She couldn’t handle the dishonour and ridicule from locals.
After she was sent packing, a heart broken Chemasunde moved to Nandi County where she got married to four women, thanks to Nandi culture which allows barren women to ‘marry’ fellow women to bear children on their behalf. Chemasunde said competition with men is so tough that some have run off with two of her wives. She said she paid six cows and four goats in bride price for her first wife, Diana who bore her a son and daughter. Unfortunately, Diana eloped.
The setback did little to dampen her spirit; she ‘tuned’ and married a second wife, Leonidah Chepkosgei, who birthed her two boys and two girls. That she had paid dowry for her did little to keep her around. She too ran off with one man who had been hovering around, masquerading as a sperm donor.
Men ran off with my wives
“When I see a young woman I like, I talk to her. And if she gives in, I just marry, like men. I go for beautiful ones, but most men whom I enter deals with to sire children for me, short change me, and run off with my wives,” the tough-talking ‘polygamist’ said.
“I don’t know why men are doing this to me. I don’t know whether they run off with my wives just because I am a woman,” wondered the proud ‘husband’, adding that she plans to take legal action to reign in their wayward wives, seeing as they have never refunded her dowry.
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That fate seemed against her endeavours did not deter her from remarrying two other wives Eunice Tapkili and Esther Cherop. She has managed to do what nature had denied her; have children. In total, Chemasunde has eight children and when men are called to attend a baraza, she attends and represents her family as a man.
Interestingly, as the man of the house, Chemasunde takes care of all her wives and treats them equally. She has even bought them land. Our sources reveal that this marriage arrangement is very normal among the Nandi community, although not openly practiced or talked about. Among the Nandi, the female husband is required to renounce her female roles and takes up male duties. She enjoys social privileges accorded to men like attending all-men barazas and private male circumcision ceremonies.
In a nutshell, Kenya is a strange place with many crazy cultures some of which Nairobians may find funny or even incredible but in rural areas, people still dance to the drumbeat of an old way of life.