The supreme council of Meru elders (Njuri Ncheke) has announced plans to regulate what it termed as absurdly high dowries demanded by in-laws.
The elders say they are alarmed that young men seeking the hand of Meru women in marriage are being asked to pay as much as Sh1 million as dowry.
During a meeting to discuss the implementation of a county policy on sexual and gender-based violence, the elders said they will formulate a policy to return the sanctity of dowry among the Ameru.
“Dowry should never be the basis to prevent young men and women from getting lifetime partners,” said Josephat Murangiri, Njuri Ncheke’s Secretary-General in-charge of operations.
According to the elders, the policy will clearly stipulate what traditional dowry rates translates to in modern terms.
“For example, if a family of the bride has demanded that their girl is worth 10 cows, we will stipulate how much one cow is worth rather than leave that interpretation to the parties in the marriage,” said Murangiri.
The proposal is among a raft of measures the elders are proposing to address the region’s low ranking in women rights and gender-based violence.
The National Crimes Centre ranks Meru as one of the counties with the highest incidences of sexual and gender-based violence.
Available data indicates that women in the area have a 65 per cent chance of experiencing violence from an intimate partner. It also indicates that seven in every 10 women in the region reported experiencing violence in the last 12 months.
The council plans to use its elaborate structures from the village to the supreme council level to reverse this trend.
According to Murangiri, the council has sent out an alert to its grassroots structures to disengage from alternative dispute resolution in sexual offences.
“Those that choose to engage in such negotiations will not have the blessings of the Njuri Ncheke,” said the council’s spokesman.
To promote gender equality, the council is considering aligning the traditional welcome for boys and girls. Traditionally, a boy is welcomed with four ululations while a girl is welcomed with three. The elders are also proposing to counter violence against uninitiated boys.
The elders’ proposals won praise from Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi who described the sexual and gender-based violence statistics as “alarming.”
Governor Kiraitu said at a high of 37 per cent, teenage pregnancies in some parts of Meru was wasting away many girls’ futures.
Meanwhile, Kiraitu has announced that the county is seeking Sh6b to transform Meru Level Five Hospital into a Level Six.