On this polygamy issue, let me say this.
There is no marriage system that is 100% foolproof. Before the missionaries came with the Bible and the gun, my ancestors used to worship facing Lake Victoria and married as many women as they deemed fit, and it served them relatively well.
When I was researching on my MPhil project, I wanted to know where my ancestors dropped the ball and started limiting themselves to only one woman. I came across a script touching on Kiambu District during the colonial period. I read something to the effect that one of the reasons the Kiambu County have no Catholic Parish is because when the Catholic missionaries came to Kiambu to convert the natives into what
they call the modern w
ay of life, they found Kiambu people circumcising their women and doing all sorts of cultural stuff that were repugnant to the Catholic dogma.
The Catholic missionaries then went to Senior Chief Koinange wa Mbiyu to tell him to tell his Kiambu people to drop those things the Church called bad manners, Senior Chief Koinange Wa Mbiyu told them that the people of Kiambu weren’t that poor to drop their culture and follow the white man simply because of the benefits accruing from colonial education and modern church teachings. He donated his personal land to the construction of indigenous churches and schools and told the Catholic Church to drop their conditions or go elsewhere with their church. All those other missionaries who penetrated Kiambu District had to soften their stand on these contentious issues the Bible preached against. Either that, or they would not get a following there.
Most of you would call Senior Chief Koinange Wa Mbiyu all manner of names. We are socialized to believe that the white man can do no wrong and they are the paragon of virtue. Our education system is a copycat of those who came to our land and killed us out of it. Our police still behave like the colonial police chasing after Mau Mau ruffians inside the forest. Our President is still, for the most part, a white colonial Governor in a black skin.
There is nothing in this country that runs purely on the innovation of the emancipated locals, we are largely a cut-and-paste society. Monogamy, therefore, is a foreign marriage system that should also be run through a lens the same way we subject polygamy to the microscope.
I support marriages that work, regardless of form or substance. My father has more than one wife and my mother isn’t the first; so whenever people get emotional about polygamy and tell us how it is a wretched marriage system, I often rise up from my seat and ask them if I look like a lesser human being.
I am both a product and a student of polygamy. At the University of Bergen, when my MPhil supervisor asked me what topic I would love my thesis to take, I told him I would want to study polygamy among the Luo. It took me three calendar months to collect primary data among polygamous families in the Kibos sugarbelt, Kisumu County. I wanted to know how women in polygamous marriages cope with the sociocultural and economic stressors that come with sharing one indivisible man. I grounded my Thesis on the Salutogenesis Theoretical Framework. The Thesis is open source, you can google it from the comfort of your couch.
I come from the school of thought that no one should dictate to you your choice of partner or form of marriage. If your family wanted you to marry a neurosurgeon, but you have fallen in love with the village street-sweeper and you feel he is the one who shall fulfill all your desires, by all means marry the guy. If you feel you want to marry one million women and you have no problem manning up to your responsibilities, my friend go ahead and break polygamy records.
There is a marriage system called polyandry, where one woman marries more than one man. It is the reverse of polygyny (what you guys commonly refer to as polygamy) and there are societies who practice polyandry and they are cool with it. I have no problem with polyandry. If it works for the guys in it, good for them. If they feel they have seen enough and want to break up, power to them too.
People who have one wife face the same challenges those who have more than one wife face. According to me, any marriage system that does not serve those in it does not deserve to be practiced by those who choose that option. You can ask for divorce in a marriage where you are the only wife and go get married to a man who has more than one wife. If it works for you, good for you. If it doesn’t work for you, by all means go seek happiness elsewhere.
One last thing.
You can never legislate morality. You cannot wake up tomorrow and make monogamy the gold standard of marriage in Kenya. You will fail miserably. People will marry as many people as they deem fit, regardless of whether they have a marriage certificate or not. Today, in this country, we have people who are monogamous by day and polygamous by night, never mind the government only allows them marital access to one wife.
People are shy to own up to their sexual partners whom they have sired with children because they fear they’ll upset the government and their friends, and in the process, lose their status in society and things like those. In my books, there is nothing like “children born out of wedlock”. If you have sired a child with someone who isn’t your official woman, that child is your child whether the government likes it or not, and that child’s status in your family doesn’t diminish because his mother is not inside your house warming your marital bed and cooking you good food.
Make peace with yourself and live the life you want to live. Cut loose the people who judge you for who they want you to be and embrace those who love you for who you are. Monogamy is just an English word.
Just like Salt and Sand.