Kenyans want come-we-stay legalised: Survey

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(Laban Wanambisi) A new survey conducted by Ipsos Synovate says 64% of Kenyans support the legalisation of come -we-stay relationships that have lasted over six months as proposed by the Marriage Bill, while 36% are against it.

Under the proposed Marriage Bill, Chiefs will have the power to consider cohabitation – popularly referred to as “come-we-stay” arrangements – as marriages, and will be required to register them as such.

Ipsos Synovate Managing Director Margaret Ireri said 36% of those against the proposed law felt that the period is too short for couples to know each other well, 18% argued that laws should not force people to marry, while nine percent felt that women will use it to trap men.

“Men who are against it feel the law can be used by unscrupulous women to trap them into marriages they are not ready for,” explained Ireri.

The survey found out that cohabiting was highest in Nairobi where a third of respondents were in this type of union, and lowest in the North Eastern region at five percent.

Support for the legislation of ‘come-we-stay’ relationships is highest in the Eastern and Western regions at 74% and 71% respectively, and lowest in North Eastern at 44%.

An overwhelming 80% of those polled do not support polygamy as compared to 20% who do, but more men than women support polygamy.

30% of those polled said they supported the proposed law because the six months is enough time for couples to know each other well, 22% said it will enable the institution of marriage to be taken seriously and 17% felt the law will ensure that men do not take advantage of women.

11% felt it will reduce adultery.

Customary/traditional marriage was the most prevalent by far among 18-24 year olds where 69% had this type of marriage compared to less than half in all other age categories.

The Bill recognises Christian, Islamic and Hindu marriage laws as well as marriages consummated under Civil and African Customary law. With the exception of marriages contracted under either customary or Islamic law, all other marriages are presumed to be monogamous, so those cohabiting have to agree to have monogamous unions.

In the Ipsos Synovate poll, majority of those who are married have been in their unions for more than five years (70%). Slightly over one quarter (26%) have been in their unions for between one and five years.

64% of the respondents in the survey were single, 32% married, two percent divorced and one percent widowed or separated. Rural areas had a higher percent of single respondents. (68% compared to those married 29%).

In urban areas single respondents formed 58% of those sampled and the married were 38%.

The proportion of married respondents decreased with education levels. While 89% of respondents with no formal education were married, only 42% of those with university education were married.

The proportion of those married increased with age with 18-24 years old having the lowest percentage (24%) compared to 35-45years old (90%) and those over 45 year old (87%).

Rift Valley and Eastern had the highest proportion of married people at 73% and 71% respectively. North Eastern and Nairobi region had the fewest married people at 40 and 45% respectively.

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