Making your own customs


The BBC reports that  two Kenyan men have signed an agreement to “marry” the same woman.

The woman had been having affairs with both men for more than four years and apparently refused to choose between them. The agreement sets out a rota for Sylvester Mwendwa and Elijah Kimani to stay in her house and states they will both help raise any children she bears.

Mr Mwendwa told the BBC he loved the woman and said the contract would “set boundaries” and “keep the peace”. “She is like the central referee. She can say whether she wants me or my colleague” Sylvester Mwendwa Co-husband

Lawyers said the “marriage” would only be recognised if they could prove polyandry – a woman having more than one husband – was part of their custom. The BBC’s David Okwembah in the capital, Nairobi, says polyandry is not practised by any community in Kenya.

People have reacted with shock to the “marriage”, arguing that it is not acceptable in terms of their culture, religion or the law, he says.

Defending the “marriage”, Mr Mwendwa told the BBC Focus on Africa programme that while he may acting in breach of the law, he had decided to enter into a contract with Mr Kimani to end their rivalry. “It could have been very dangerous if the other man would have come to her house and caught me… So our agreement is good as it sets boundaries and helps us keep peace.”

Community policing officer Adhalah Abdulrahman persuaded the two men to marry the woman after he saw them fighting over her in Mombasa county, the local Daily Nation newspaper reports. “We have agreed that from today we will not threaten or have jealous feelings because of our wife, who says she’s not ready to let go of any of us,” the agreement says, Kenya’s NTV station reports.

“Each one will respect the day set aside for him. We agree to love each other and live peacefully. No-one has forced us to make this agreement,” it adds. Mr Mwendwa said her parents had given their blessing, while he is planning to pay the bride price. Mr Mwendwa told the BBC he did not marry the woman simply to satisfy his sexual desires but because he loved her and, most of all, her children.

The woman, a widow with two children, did not want to be named.

“I have never been called a dad and her two children call me daddy,” he said. He said he hoped to have his own children with the woman, but she would have to decide.

Kenyan family lawyer Judy Thongori told the Daily Nation that the law does not explicitly forbid polyandry. “The laws we have do not talk about it but for such a union to be recognised in Kenya, it has to be either under the statutory law or as customary marriage. The question we should ask now is whether these people come from communities that have been practising polyandry,” she is quoted as saying.


6 comments on “Making your own customs

  1. G says:

    This is beautiful, I wish the community was more supportive.

    • Pyx says:

      I thought his love for her and the kids were a great priority and the tendency to force someone to choose is hard – it almost seems like the natural order of things – so the fact all three of them could even sit and have this conversation is impressive.

      I say screw the law and what is on the books and let them start making their own customs.

      • G says:

        I agree with you, I like that they chose to avoid conflict by giving it a try, even when it wasn’t custom. Really cool.

  2. kdaddy23 says:

    The whole world needs to embrace this kind of forward thinking! Don’t let the law define and control that which makes us happy when it comes to love and relationships!

  3. The Hook says:

    It is truly a new world.

  4. Matthew Vett says:

    Have you ever seen 1776? There’s a scene where one of the delegates is saying that there’s no precedent for the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin Franklin shouts at him, “That’s because we’ll be making our own precedent, you clod!”

    Where do people expect custom to come from if you can’t start any new ones? It seems like a Catch-22 to refuse to allow things to become legal unless customary, while simultaneously making any new possible customs illegal.

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