Kenyan observations #7
My new polygamist friend in Mombasa told me that polygamy is decreasing in Kenya – but he assured me that it wasn’t because they wanted it to. It was for practical reasons. The economy is so bad at the moment and people have so few resources, so more and more Kenyan men tend to only marry one woman. They cannot afford to take care of more than one – so they marry only one.
“But it is not because we want to – the economy forces us to be monogamous, we do not want to be”
Another reason for only marrying one woman is the spreading of HIV and AIDS. As most of us know the disease is a major problem all over Africa and Kenya is no exception. In a polygamous society one case of HIV or AIDS can spread to 5 individuals within a very short time span. Luckily the Kenyans are starting to realize this!
Protection in the form of condoms is still not widespread enough and even in the areas where it is, a married couple wouldn’t use it and a woman would never dare ask her husband for it. They are married and married couples are meant to have babies – so a condom would be going against all of that. Doesn’t work.
So a man might have sex with a HIV infected woman and then go home and have sex with his (4) wives who then – sooner or later – will also be infected (or maybe one of his wives is infected, she gives the virus to her husband and he gives it to the other wives). A traditional way of life that is causing a major health disaster by spreading a deadly disease faster than any prevention campaign can follow.
So I was happy to hear my new friend say that the efforts made by national and international forces to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS seem to finally be paying off. Little by little.
But there are still tribal traditions that persists and that are dangerous in a day and age where AIDS roams the streets. A Kenyan woman, Edith, whom I met in Nairobi when I first came here, told me about a tradition that her tribe, the Luo, still practices.
If a man dies before his wife then the elders of the tribe chooses a man to “take over” the wife and the children. She is forced to marry whoever they choose and he will most likely be a man already married and with a family. Needless to say – diseases can spread both fast and easily this way!