Nairobi News

NewsWhat's Hot

Son evicts step-mum married to a fellow woman from her land

A woman who has been “married” to another for 24 years has been evicted from their home by her step-son, claiming the practice is no longer supported by the Constitution.

Among the Nandi sub-tribe of the Kalenjin community, it was acceptable for a barren woman to “marry” another woman and sire children for her in a customary union.

In this case, the children would then take on the name of the woman who “marries”’ their mother.

But in Cheptil Village of Nandi County, a family that was raised through such arrangement has been evicted from their home by one of their step-children who alleged that such marriages were no longer recognised in the 2010 Constitution and hence the offspring are not entitled to inherit any property.

HIRED GOONS

The stepson, a regular police officer based in Butere, Kakamega County, is alleged to have hired goons, who stormed Ms Teresa Ng’eny’s home and demolished her one-bedroom house together with two other houses belonging to her sons on May 21, 2016.

Teresa and her “husband” Cheptalam Ngeny were both evicted.

The two are now struggling to acquire alternative residence.

Their neighbours watched from a distance as the houses were brought down by the armed men, whom Teresa accuses of stealing her Sh250,000 she had in her house and taking away her seven bags of maize.

Teresa said that her step-son wants to evict her from her 22-acre piece of land because of Kalenjin cultural beliefs.

CUSTOMARY LAW

She had been married to her co-wife under the Nandi customary law in a ceremony held in 1994 at Nandi Cheptil farm. Together they had nine children.

The institution of woman-to-woman marriage, which has been in existence for centuries, is still practiced in some Kenyan communities.

In such arrangements, a barren woman enters into a marriage agreement with another woman for the sole purpose of having children.

The barren woman becomes the “father” of the children as he is the “husband” in the arrangement.

“I have been married in this family since 1992 and I have sired nine children for my co-wife as our customary beliefs allows that.

“In 2013, one of my co-wives’ sons, who is a police officer in Butere, asked me to leave the piece of land, saying it was against the 2010 Constitution for me to own a piece of land,” said Teresa.

LIFE IN DANGER

According to her, her life is in danger as the stepson is using his position to intimidate and frustrate her.

She is now living in a makeshift tent on the same piece of land that is at the centre of the dispute.

“Which land will I give my sons if I was to surrender this one?” she posed.

She has now petitioned both the county and national governments to intervene and solve the matter and save her from the agony she is currently going through.

“Our request is for the government to take up this issue because the police are not of help at all. It is really unfortunate that we have to sleep in the cold,” Teresa pleaded.

Kabiyet Sub-county administrator Rachel Wamalwa said the matter was being handled by the police.

Michael Wabomba Masinde, an advocate of the High Court specializing in child and family law, said the Constitution recognises these “marriage” arrangements and the right for dependants to inherit property, citing section 29 of the Law of Succession Act.

“Dependant means the wife or wives, or former wife or wives, and the children of the deceased whether or not maintained by the deceased immediately prior to his death.

LEGAL DEFINITION

“The children born in a woman-to-woman customary union are regarded by law as children under this definition, and the same applies to the word wife,” states the law, he said.

However, Mr Masinde said that for woman-to-woman customary unions to be deemed valid, the marrying woman must be childless, dowry must be paid, the husband to the marrying woman must have been deceased, and the marriage must not be repugnant to the Constitution and to justice and morality.

According to Philip Barno, a Nandi elder and retired chief, such marriages were very common among the Nandi community and were highly respected.

He identified such marriages as Chebositab gogo, translated as wife of grandmother.

Having an heir who could watch over the property even after the passing on of the couples was very important hence the need for a woman to marry another woman who could sire children for her.

VILLAGE ELDERS

“Such an issue need not go the police. Elders just need to sit down and sort it out,” said Mr Barno.

According to the law, this kind of marriage can take place whether the husband of the barren woman is alive or dead. If the husband is alive the other woman is allowed to have sexual relations with the husband for the purpose of having children.

Any offspring of this relationship will be regarded as the children of the barren woman.

Where the husband is dead, she must select a man from her husband’s family or allow the woman to select whom she wants to have children with.

This is also common among the Kisii, Taita and Kuria tribes.