Woman-to-Woman Marriages in Kenya

The Curator

Woman-to-woman marriage is one of the many forms of cultural practice recognised by some communities in Africa. Although this form of marriage is recognised by some communities in several African countries, there’s little legal backing or protection to it.

Same-sex arranged marriage is culturally accepted so women who are unable to have children, or those who have not yet had a son, can fulfill societal expectations. In Migori, for example, women are married under “nyumba mboke”, a practice that allows for woman-to-woman unions.

This institution has existed since the 18th century.

“Woman to woman customary marriages arise where a woman is barren and she then marries another woman for the sole purpose of having children and those children become the children of the barren woman who is the husband in the relation. This marriage can take place whether the husband of the barren woman is alive or dead. If the husband is alive the other woman is allowed to have sexual relations with the husband for the purpose of having children. Any children out of this relationship will be regarded as the children of the barren woman. Where the husband is dead she must select a man from the husband’s family or leave the decision to the woman to select whom she wants to have children with. This is common among Kisii, Taita and Kuria tribes.” – Ambrose Abongo, Validity of woman-to-woman marriages in Kenya (PDF)

Juliana and Esther Soi married in the early 1990s.
Susan Boke (left) who is ‘married’ to Siprina Nyamani (right) at their home in Nyangoge village, Kuria Sub-county. Woman-to-woman marriages are common among several Kenyan tribes.
Esther Simatei, (left) and Nancy Chepkorir who are married to each other. Culturally, women marry women to tackle barrenness.

2 thoughts on “Woman-to-Woman Marriages in Kenya

  1. Why is it that nowadays if a lady happen to marry another lady they will be condemned & be taken as sinners. Why is it so illegal nowadays? Were those days not a crime??

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