Divorce rates in Kenya lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa

Monday January 11 2016

A new study done at McGill University in Montreal, Canada has found that divorce rates in Kenya are a half those in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. PHOTO | FILE

A new study done at McGill University in Montreal, Canada has found that divorce rates in Kenya are a half those in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. PHOTO | FILE 

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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Marriages in Kenya are likely to last longer than those in neighbouring countries.

A new study has found that divorce rates in Kenya are a half those in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The research done at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and published in December last year, shows that only 15 per cent of unions in Kenya end in divorce as compared to most of its neighbours whose rates exceed 30 per cent.

The study also found that contrary to the belief that more people are getting divorced, divorce rates in Sub-Saharan Africa have either declined in the past 20 years or have remained stable, a development attributed to women marrying later in life.

FEMALE EDUCATION ASSOCIATED WITH LOWER DIVORCE RATES

The report states that: “In countries where women marry on average 5 years later, their expected probability of divorce falls by 9.5 percentage points.”

This is because the increased age of first marriage signifies both greater maturity and spousal self-selection into more compatible unions, leading to greater union stability

“Although urbanisation and female employment are generally associated with higher rates of divorce, these factors are countered in sub-Saharan Africa by the rising age of first marriage,” says Shelley Clark, Director of the Centre on Population Dynamics at McGill.

Another reason for declining divorce rates was higher education for women, with the study saying: “We find that higher levels of female education are actually associated with lower levels of divorce.”

Even so, statistics drawn from the Demographic and Health Surveys of the 20 countries surveyed showed that the divorce rate is still very high, with 25 per cent of all marriages ending before their 20th anniversary, as a result of divorce.

Overall, divorce was found to be three times as common as widowhood, with the researchers finding a spousal death rate of 8.4 per cent, as compared to the 25 per cent recorded for divorce.

According to Kenya’s 2009 population census, a total of 12.6 million Kenyans were married, of these, 1.4 million reported being in polygamous marriages.