Skip to main site content.
(REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)
(REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)

Sold out

In Kenya, impoverished surrogates forced into unhappy ‘marriages’ with infertile women

By WITW Staff on May 14, 2019

A popular traditional practice in Migori County in Southern Kenya allows for women to marry women in informal unions in spite of the country’s legal ban on gay marriage. But human rights activists say the practice, known as “nyumba mboke,” is not something to be celebrated. In many cases, it’s reported, older or infertile women pay fathers a dowry in return for effective ownership of a young daughter who can provide them with children and thereby increase their status in the community.

Grace Boke, a 19-year-old mother of three girls, told Al Jazeera that her father “decided to give me away for four cows to a woman with no children” after she gave birth to her first daughter out of wedlock.

“My father forced me to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) when I was very young, in class two, and immediately after that, I was involved with a man who made me pregnant and disappeared,” Boke recalled. “My father later sold the cows and went for a drinking spree and never gave my mother any money from that. He later died.”

Boke says she soon discovered that her new partner, Pauline Gati, had no farm and had given away her remaining wealth to her father in return for the marriage. The two work as day laborers on farms to make ends meet, but are rarely able to adequately feed the three children. Despite that, Gati is now pushing Boke to get pregnant again so she can have a son.

“The children … will now be mine. I will have someone to take care of me when I grow old,” said Gati. “[Boke] has to give me a baby boy among the girls; I cannot have only girls in this community. I will lose respect.”

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

Related

Freed from forced marriages, U.K. victims asked to pay government back for rescue

Woman explains the secret she discovered to putting a huge dent in child marriage problem

Marriage of 41-year-old man to 11-year-old girl prompts fierce debate over child marriage — and an investigation