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Kaweto Marriages in Ukambani

Kaweto is a form of customary marriage which was practiced in the tradition Akamba community and it is still being practiced hitherto. It is a marriage which involves a woman marrying another woman. This could be necessitated by reasons such as scenario where a woman has been married to a man and she is incapable of conceiving to get an offspring who is supposed to continue the lineage. 

A mother holds a baby. Kaweto customary marriages in Ukambani still exist and serve their purpose such as helping continue the lineage of a woman who is unable to conceive./Courtesy

Secondly, traditionally it was assumed all girls would be married off so it was necessary to bring a son in the family by all means necessary. Thirdly, a woman who is not able to conceive could “marry” another woman so that she gets off springs to continue her lineage.

Kaweto is same sex marriage, woman to woman. However, it should not be mistaken for lesbianism, in that though it involves marriage between women, the two ladies do not necessarily enjoy conjugal rites from one another. Lesbians on the other hand marry or date solely for erotic pleasure and companionship, and since it is naturally impossible for a woman to impregnate another woman, when it comes to the question of offspring they can only adopt one.

For Kaweto marriage scenario whereby a woman, married to another man is allowed to marry a fellow woman with the aim of getting a succession candidate to inherit the property and continue linage, the newly wedded woman calls the husband to the wife who married her dad while referring to his wife as mum instead of co-wife. This logic is arrived at in that, the Kaweto woman is assumed to have been married by the son of the initial couple, which they never had. So, it is out of question for the man of the house to engage in sexual intercourse with her “daughter-in-law”.  The woman of the house, who is initially married to a man is expected to pay “bride price” her new wife.

From Where Does She Get the Kids?

The Kaweto wife is allowed to sleep with any other man from the locality in order to produce kids for her “Mum-cum-Husband”. Sometimes, it is alleged that the “mum-cum-husband” chooses a man of “his” choice as a suitable candidate to impregnate her wife. The wife has no right to question her “husband’s” decision, since she accepted to be bought and paid for using the bride price and should be ready to undertake the assignment of keeping the family name alive. A woman can have more than one Kaweto co-wives should the first Kaweto fail to produce a son, there is always room to add another “wife”.

What If There Is a Divorce?

Most of times, it is very rare to witness a divorce resulting from such a union since the chief goal of the marriage is to get someone to continue the family name. In Kenya there is no legislation that recognizes same sex marriage. Kaweto is purely based on Kamba customary law. The customary marriage recognized in the Marriage Act is between a man and a woman. It is only the clan and elders who have the jurisdiction to preside over a Kaweto Marriage dissolution.


Since the woman is not married to any specific man, she could be in danger of falling prey to many sexual partners and engage in unprotected sex thus increasing the chances to get HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Woman to Woman Marriages

For a custom to have a legal grounding, it must be accepted or approved in the community. From a legal perspective, custom is described as that which prevails among a set of people as a result of their consensus opinion. Woman to woman marriages is common in some ethnic communities in Kenya. These marriages were conducted by women who were incapable of having children or those widowed. A woman would marry another woman in order to procreate with the man of the “wife’s” choice, preferably of the first wife’s husband age group.


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Graduate Land Surveyor &GIS Expert

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