Polygamous marriages exposing Kenyans to risk of HIV/Aids, warns new survey
Posted Saturday, July 10 2010 at 21:00
- Big appetite for many wives among Kenyan men a major worry for population experts
Thirteen of every 100 married Kenyan women have co-wives. This means they are married to men who have at least one or more other wives, according to the latest official statistics on population trends.
Although the figure represents a drop from the 16 of every 100 married women who had co-wives in 2003, the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 2008/2009 says Kenyan men should restrain themselves from taking more than one wife.
Polygamy means mutilple spouses; polygny means multiple wives; and polyandry means multiple husbands.
Experts believe that in Kenya polygny is one of the social practices fuelling the spread of HIV/Aids.
It also perpetuates large families, frustrating campaigns to control population growth estimated at 2.3 per cent per year.
Results of last year’s national population census — now scheduled to be released next month— are expected to show that Kenya has a population of 40 million people, a number so high that it will dominate today’s World Population Day official celebrations being held in Mombasa.
“We get worried by polygamous marriages because they increase the likelihood that co-wives will compete among themselves at having more children and end up contributing to the average number of births per women,” said Samuel Ogola, a programme officer at the National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development.
The situation, he said, was worse among less educated women, an observation confirmed in the KDHS report.
It shows that educated women were less likely to practice polygamy, a practice that was common in past centuries when having more women and children was considered to be a status symbol and a source of pride for men.
Having more daughters in the past was seen as a source of wealth from the dowry paid to their families when they were married. Boys, for their part, were seen as key to continuing the family tree.
According to the KDHS findings, polygny is stronger in some regions than in others.
North Eastern Province has the highest proportion of women in polygynous marriages – 36 in every 100.
The proportion of women in polygynous marriages in Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Coast provinces ranged between 15 and 23 per cent.
“Women with no or low education and those who are poorest are most likely to live in polygynous marriages,” according to the report.
It also showed that older women were more likely to be in polygynous unions than younger ones, and the practice is more prevalent in rural than urban areas.
But only seven of every 100 married men surveyed said they had more than one wife.