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Gender & Development Studies

Investigating The Causes And Possible Solutions Of Divorce In Nairobi City County, Kenya




Although the United States has the highest divorce rates of any Western nation, divorce rates have been increasing in almost all European countries and Africa, especially in Kenya.

The main objective of this study was to explore the causes of and the possible solutions to divorce in Nairobi. The study sought to identify causes, examine the consequences of divorce and determine the possible solutions to divorce in Nairobi City County.

The research was exploratory in nature with qualitative methods of data collection forming the core of the study. The qualitative data was analyzed thematically along the line of specific objectives. This task was complicated by the fact that issues of marriage and divorce are very sensitive matters and therefore, not many people like to discuss their private life with strangers.

The study revealed that there are a lot of issues that cause divorce or marital dissolution. These are: education and employment among women or wives, different education levels among couples, employment among couples, infidelity among spouses, young immature individuals getting married, interference from in-laws and other dependent family members, misunderstanding or conflicting opinions, financial instability or poverty, cultural issues, domestic violence, marital rape or sexual abuse, infertility, barrenness and drug abuse among others. The study further revealed that the consequences of divorce mostly as poverty and psychological problems like stress.

The possible solutions to divorce are majorly communication, guidance and counseling, incorporating religion into marriage, worrying about the welfare of the children, sharing of events such as celebrating each other’s events as birthdays, promotions and having a weekend getaway together.

The study recommends that couples should come up with their own ways of managing issues or solving problems and not emulate what others do as marriages and people are different. Couples should save for sustainability of the family. Couples should respect and love each other, this way conflicts tend to be minimal. Couples need to communicate with each other whenever they have a problem and try to transform the conflict for the better instead of carrying over grudges that ultimately causes buildup of issues that eventually lead to conflict just to name but a few.


 1.1  Introduction

The family is still a primary unit of human interaction, providing for both generational renewal and individual linkage to the larger society as it has been for thousands of years (Thornton et al., 1994). Not only is the family the basis of African social organizations, as its members may also be the primary caretakers for social control and the religious activities as Sociology of African Societies Research suggests (Takyi, 2001). Therefore, as Mbiti (1969) acknowledges, family is the most basic component of society, it is very important that it should be started well, so that the rest of the organization will follow suit. Most decisively, marriage is the locus of reproduction in sub- Saharan Africa (Takyi, 2001). Marriage is a very important rite of passage in the whole world. This is because it provides continuity to people through child bearing. This being the case, every community has its own way of socializing and grooming the supposed people (boys and girls after puberty) to take up marital roles (Mbunda, 1991).

Marriage, as stated by Thomas (1995), is a social institution of matrimony, which has legal definition and rights and duties that are regulated by the state and sanctioned in many religious traditions through special rites and ceremonies. In Kenya, the Marriage Act notes that marriage is considered to be an optional and also a voluntary collaboration between a male and female whether in a polygamous or monogamous marriages.

Macionis and Gaber (2011) agree with socialization theory when they state that unlike other living species, humans need socialization within their culture for survival. Many communities have their own ways of training children as they get to puberty and finally turn into adults on the important roles the society requires them to play. Among some African communities, for example Makonde and Sukuma of Tanzania, Kipsigis, Digo and Kisii of Kenya, Ndembu of Zambia and others, there were initiation ceremonies that marked a rite of passage where adolescents were turned into adults who can marry and build a home (Mbunda, 1991).

During these initiation ceremonies, a community’s values and customs were passed on and the initiates were educated on their marital responsibilities and upholding the future of the  community.

For example, the Gikuyu of central Kenya had a compulsory initiation ceremony for both the girls and the boys known as irua (circumcision). This was an important rite of passage bearing in mind that pain signified moving from being a child to a young adult who is ready to be married. No man or woman would accept to marry or be married by an uncircumcised person because it was considered bad omen in the community. It is during this important time in the initiates’ lives that sex education, customs and gender roles were discussed (Njonjo, 2013). The initiated girls entered a maidenhood stage which lasted until they married four to six years later. During this period they were expected to help their mothers with the work of adult women as household chores and gardening. If a maiden showed competence and diligence, it was believed that her parents could command a high bride wealth for her. Maidens’ most important role, however, was to strengthen the social fabric of the region. This ideally pan territorial identification and social cohesion within age sets was to be cemented by exogamous patrilocal marriages, with a shift in status to adult married women marking an end of the maidenhood stage (Whiting, 1994).

In the Bukusu community from Western Kenya, for instance, men and women got married at a younger age of 18-20 and 16 respectively. In this community, there were two types of marriages, either arranged or enforced marriages. The wife was required to have a number of skills such as cooking, the ability to have children and also work in the field. Forced marriages are still common in traditional households today (Nyakale, 2011).

In the Luo community, during marriages, the woman would come from a different clan or family line from the man. The marriage was well recognized by the family members, because of marriage negotiation process, it was considered permanent and divorce was not allowed unless the man was impotent or a glutton (Ogutu, 2007:4).

Over the years, there has been a problem in marital stability and divorce and separation have become commonplace.

According to Kendall (2015), divorce is dissolving an existing marriage in a legal way. The CDC speculated that from the year 2000 to 2014, a number of national marriages were documented in the US. In 2000, there were 944,000 divorces and annulments and the rate per 1000 total

population was 4 in 2010 they were 872,000, 3.6 and 2014, there were 813,862, 3.2 respectively (CDC, 2009). These figures corroborate the common belief that the greater percentage of marriages end in divorce. The main reason considered to lead to a divorce in a marriage is the age gap and also the increase in the education level (Amato, 2010). A similar trend has been reported in Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyra, 2015). The United States demographics of divorce show that  the divorce rate increased dramatically from 1960 to 1980 and then gradually dropped (Amato, 2010).

Due to the relatively high divorce rate, there are consequences that come along with this act. According to Kendall (2015), a number of families experiencing divorce encounter a multitude of problems in matters of the family especially the children and on others, the effect may be more marginal. In most cases, mothers are forced to remain with the children and hence become a single parent. Divorce is not always supposed to be negative. It may be an opportunity to terminate the damaging relationship in order to fulfill some of the personal goals and objectives (Kendall,  2015).

The Demographic factors that could contribute to couples being divorced maybe the age gap, the couple’s background, social and economic status, religion, and also the inability to bear children as well as individuals and relationship factors (Clarke and Brentano, 2008). Alcohol abuse and poor communication skills are personality factors and behaviors that may diminish the marital quality and pave way for divorce. The principal divorce risk factor is stress (Clarke and Brentano, 2008). Systematic data on the cause(s) of divorce in Kenya is lacking. The aim was to investigate the factors of divorce and possible actions to divorce in Nairobi City County as many factors contribute to it.

1.2  Problem Statement

In accordance with Consumer Insight (2012), statistics reveal that 50% of new marriages end up after a short period of one year compared to traditional marriages that would last for 37 years and more but today, they last as low as 37 weeks. In Great Britain, just after the World War 2, in every three marriages, one would end up in divorce. Therefore, in accordance to the country’s statistics,

from that period, more than 70% of the children in families would grow up with their biological parents, but with time, the percentage has reduced to nearly 45% (Consumer Insight, 2012).

 According to statistics, the divorce rate has been escalating annually (Madam Magazine, 2010). Also, divorce tendencies are on the rise in Kenya. In Milimani Law Courts, in the year 2001, more than a hundred cases were filed. The number increased to more than 100 and 200 cases in the year 2002 and 2003, respectively. The following years 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 recorded 296, 295, 357 and 369 cases respectively. Between 2010 and 2015, a total of 1,246 cases have been filed at the Milimani Courts. In the year 2015 alone, 123 cases had been filed at Milimani law courts (Madam Magazine, 2015). According to Gikonyo and Hart (2010), Fida Kenya handled 142 cases in 2008,149 in 2009 and 69 cases between January and March2010. Despite the high legal cost involved in divorce cases, the number of divorce cases is still high. Nevertheless, a number of couples seek to resolve and settle their marital disputes outside the court (Makeni, 2010).

Infotrak survey in 2010 revealed that only 40 percent of Kenyans are happily married, the rest are either unhappy or uncertain on how to describe their unions. 29 percent of married Kenyans admit that their marriages are crumbling, while 31 percent say they are not convinced whether they are in a happy or unhappy union. About 45 percent say that they are holding on because of the money and property. In the recent twist, financial status and meddling in-laws have overtaken infidelity as the leading cause of broken marriages. Half of all married people who took part in the survey agreed with the statement above. Where the conflict ended in divorce and separation, 64 percent  of the respondents said they walked out because of money problems, compared to 56 percent who dissolved marriage because of infidelity. The traditional bond, which is love, that lead couples to the altar has taken a backseat in many Kenyan marriages and its place seized by money and children (Infotrak, 2010).

We as a society need to look at the reasons behind the failing marriages. There is a lot more pressure on marriages and relationships in general than before and the same strategies used in the past are becoming irrelevant. A series of serious conversations must be held if the institution of marriage is to survive, and burying our heads in the sand is not going to cut it anymore (Ngao, 2013). If the reports are anything to go by, the divorce rate in Kenya is rising as there are cases in

courts every day. The number of people getting married in the recent study shows that it is low compared to the people divorcing each other (Consumer Insight, 2012).

Muthoni and Makana (2015) writing in the Standard Newspaper have suggested that marriages are falling apart partly because of cheating about money or finances leading to lose of trust. Other reasons adduced are infidelity whether it’s a one night stand or a lengthy affair, cruelty and polygyny. Two major reasons for separation are cheating partners and the issues related to financial management. Therefore, this study aimed at filling the gap by bringing on board qualitative data on causes of divorce, consequences and possible solutions to divorce in Nairobi City County.

To achieve the above, the study was guided by the following set of research questions:

  1. What are the causes of divorce in Nairobi City County?
  2. What are the consequences of divorce?
  • What are the possible solutions to divorce in Nairobi City County?

1.3  Objectives of the study

 1.3.1   Overall Objective

To explore the causes of and possible solutions to divorce in Nairobi City County.

1.3.2   Specific Objectives

  1. To establish the causes of divorce in Nairobi City
  2. To examine the consequences of divorce in Nairobi City
  3. To determine the possible solutions to divorce in Nairobi City

1.4  Study assumptions

  1. That there were several causes of divorce in Nairobi
  2. That there were many consequences of divorce in Nairobi
  3. That there existed best possible solutions to divorce.

1.5  Justification of the study

Given the high rates of divorce globally and the fact that it is on the increase in Kenya, there is need for a comprehensive understanding of the underlying factors that perpetuate the increase.

The findings from this study would help marital counselors in interventions in the divorce education classes for parents. Mediation through this intervention program is presumed to lead to a number of interactions between the parents and also the children. Further, this would enable them maintain connection, and therefore, avoid the issue of divorce between them.

The study also sought to identify factors that cause divorce; it was hoped that once they are brought to the fore, the findings would be used by interventionists to come up with relevant advocacy initiatives based on people’s perceptions, but with the potential to help stabilize marriages in society to safeguard the future generation and that of the institution of the family and marriage.

A growing body of literature has been accrued over the years in Africa; the explanation is greatly expounded in the research papers. This is indicated by a number of family cases that have ended up in divorce (Takyi, 2001). An understanding and a solution from the perspective of the stakeholders has the potential of coming up with practical solutions to advise advocates and family therapists in their important efforts towards creating a working solution to the problem of family instability. Once families are stable, children grow up in a backyard of love and appreciation and they, in turn, are likely to take the values from which they grow up.

1.6  Scope and Limitations of the Study

The study focused on the major causes of divorce and marital instability in Nairobi City County. The study population was chosen because of the increasing rate of divorce and marital instability in Kenya, regionally and globally. Some of the data needed in this study was sensitive and likely to be reserved by respondents. Consent and assurance of confidentiality was used to ensure maximum cooperation during the data collection.

Results and responses could contain inherent biases among individuals for what they perceived as contributing factor in their divorce or separation. Honesty was regarded as the key factor that assisted in teasing out the issues in couples. Among many other disadvantages in this study, some couples refused to be part of the informants for fear of being judged, some men were not so receptive of the idea of the questionnaire, while some respondents had to be approached severally before they accepted to be interviewed. In as much as the respondents were available, it was not easy to get those that were willing to talk about themselves. In a number of cases, possible respondents asked to be sent the questionnaire but later went mute and refused to even respond to calls. In addition to the limitations, the sample in this study is small and may not provide adequate information for generalization across all marriages.

However, any gap in potential sample bias was mitigated through the triangulation method more so, the key informants who had interacted with many divorcing families in the past.

1.7  Definition of Key Terms

Divorce: is termination of marriage under the rule of law of a particular country or state

Marital instability: – according to this study is marriage is at the brink of breaking or collapsing.

Extra marital sexual affairs: These are illicit romantic and sexual relationships that occur outside marriage. This is also known as infidelity.

Women autonomy: is a situation in which women are able to think and act on their own.

Separation: means living apart from your partner but still legally married until you get judgment from a court.

Pages:  95

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF        

Chapters: 1-5

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.

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