10 Weird Marriage Practices By Kenyan Communities

As much as traditions are sacred, some are weird and scary. Here is a random look into some of the weirdest marriage practices by Kenyan communities as recent as 2018.

1. Barren Wife ‘Marrying’ Another Wife

In this case, an infertile wife will literally marry another lady that will bear kids with her husband on her ‘behalf’ since she can’t bear kids. The barren woman, in this case, is considered the husband in this marriage and any children who are born by the lady becomes hers. The child from this union bears the surname of the ‘woman-husband’. This practice is rampant among the Kambas, Taita, Kuria and also the Kisiis.

2.Widow Inheritance

If a husband dies, the wife then gets inherited by one of the deceased’s brothers and children who are born out of this union are not regarded as children of the deceased but of the living husband/brother. This practice is majorly done by the Luo and partly by the Luhya and Masai.

3.Ghost/Grave Marriages

If a son dies before or without getting married, the parents arrange for him to marry in absentia. This is purposely done so that the dead son cannot be cut off from the chain of life which is supreme and most important. Parents of a dead son will have to conduct a grave marriage if the son died before/without getting marrying. The mother of the dead son agrees with the family of the lady to be ‘married off’ and with the consent of the lady as well. This is also rampant among the Kamba.

4. Gifting The Widower With A Wife

Also known as sororate marriage, in this case, when a wife dies, parents of the dead wife can decide to gift the husband with a wife, in this case, a sister of the dead wife is usually gifted to the widower as a wife. This also happens if a family is unable to return the bride price to the husband’s family and the sister of the dead comes in as a worthy compensation.

5. Forcible Marriage

If in a family there are only girls, then the last born daughter is not allowed to be married. The last born daughter is required to stay home with her parents and bear children, male children in this case; with any man she likes and the children will be her father…crazy huh.

This is still done by few conservative Nandis and Kispisgis

6. Not Getting Married Before Older Siblings

I have personally witnessed this. A person, whether man or woman, however old he/she can be is not supposed to be married before older sibling does. This is mostly done by conservative communities who frown upon celibacy and by doing this, the older siblings are forced to get married by all means.

If the older siblings don’t marry, they are forced into marriages so as to ‘open a way’ for the younger siblings who are ready to settle to do so.

7. Leviratic marriages 

Leviratic marriages can be easily confused with widow inheritance but here I am to shed some light on this. Leviratic marriage is when a husband dies, and the widow is married by a brother or just any relative but in this case, children sired from the union are regarded as those of the dead husband. This is practised by the Kambas, Kamba, Nandi and Luos.

8. Marrying For An Imaginary Son

If a family never had a son, then they will marry a wife for their imaginary son

9. Wife Swapping

Another weird practice that is still being done is swapping of wives if one is found cheating. Both parties swap wives for an agreed period and then return them after the rather obvious. This has been even witnessed recently in Luhya land.


Also practised is where the father of a bride in a  Maasai community spits on her daughter’s breast and head to bless her and wish her luck in her marriage.


ALSO READ: 10 Weird Cultural Practices Done In Kenya Today

                       List OF 10 Most Notorious Traditional Cultural Practices In Kenya

John Nyabuto

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