Financial instability, social insecurity and the desire to share responsibilities are driving Kenyans to marry early, according to a new survey.
Leading the rush for early marriages are the poorer, less educated people, many of whom are entering unions as early as 20.
According to the survey commissioned for Saturday Nation, one in every two women would prefer to be married at the age of between 22 and 25.
But four in every 10 men believe they should marry before they turn 30.
The survey shows a majority of Kenyans prefer to stay in marital unions, with only one in every 10 women preferring to remain unmarried.
Half of the people in the high social class believe the ideal marriage is above 30 years. They argue this is ideal because, by this time, someone would have got a better education and a stable source of income.
The findings show a growing acceptance by young adults of “come-we-stay” marital arrangements.
However, a majority of those above 34 years hold the view that any marital relationship should be formalised in church.
“The desire to have a church wedding is still a dream for a majority of those who are unmarried,” the survey shows.
Six out of 10 Kenyans who have chosen the “come-we stay” unions say it is convenient.
The findings come less than a month after a new law was passed that requires that all “come-we-stay” marriages be considered legal if they last at least six months.
According to Consumer Insight’s managing director, Ndirangu wa Maina, the research, titled ‘Discerning Trends’, sought to, among other things, uncover key social and cultural trends in Kenya over the past few years.
A total of 1,350 respondents were interviewed on face-to-face basis in Kenya’s three cities — Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu — and in seven other towns that boast of both urban and peri-urban populations.
The findings confirm fears that marriage life is no longer cherished, especially among teenagers.
Some 23 per cent confess they believe less in marriage than they used to a while ago, although this prevalence reduces as they grow up towards their late 20s.
“This group has an independent mind and would not yield to any pressure to marry someone,” says the study.
The pollster further found that unlike in the earlier days when people consulted their parents or relatives before making their lifetime choices, it rarely matters these days.
In fact, the survey shows that 65 per cent of Kenyans would live with a partner in complete disregard of their parents’ opinion on him or her.
“This suggests a breakdown in our traditional way of treating family matters,” Mr Maina said.
“It is no longer about us (as family) but me (as a person) when it comes to partner choice.”
Young people are also pulling away from the church, giving rise to the new phenomenon of “garden wedding”.
The findings show that although nearly half of teenagers still prefer a church wedding and a garden reception, only a few of them want to conduct the ceremony and the reception within the church precincts.
It was clear most of those who prefer the church affair are of lower social class, with the upcoming middle class even suggesting everything can be done at a garden setting.
Weddings expert Christine Kamanda explains that garden weddings are giving couples a free hand to improvise on all they want to do to have a classic wedding.
“Normally, the church has setbacks such as uncontrolled guests,” said Ms Kamanda who runs Bridesline Aesthetics, a wedding planning firm in Nairobi.
“A garden gives the convenience of inviting fewer guests, give the décor your personal touch and generally make your day a reserve of the chosen few”.
As people respond differently to marriage matters, most Kenyans now support the need to marry people for whom they are, and not necessarily to conform to certain societal expectations.
More than half can marry a spouse who had a child from a previous relationship, the findings show.
It shows six out of 10 respondents believe a child brought up by a single mother is likely to have a problem later in life.
The survey shows that Kenyans are more open to tribal arithmetic in marriage than was a few years ago. It says 80 per cent of the respondents would not mind marrying someone from another community.
“Kenyan families are increasingly according women bigger roles, a situation that could mean the influence of men is declining,” says the report indicating “it’s no longer a man’s world”.
Majority of Kenyans also believe fulfilment of a family’s financial needs is a responsibility of both parents.
But quite significantly, half of the respondents think both husband and wife should share house chores.