At least one in every 18 households in Kenya is headed by someone who has been divorced/separated, a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) report shows – a 16.5 per cent rise in the cases within a decade.
An analysis of two reports on Kenya’s marriage institution shows that today, the chances of married people divorcing or separating are 1.3 times higher than a decade ago.
The KNBS report on household and family dynamics released in May last year and based on the 2019 census, shows that 5.5 per cent of Kenya’s 12 million households, by 2019, were headed by divorcees or persons who had separated from their spouses. These are 661,628 households.
The report, which categorised Kenyan households based on the marital status of the head, showed that 405,515 of the households headed by divorced persons were women-headed. This means that 61.3 per cent of households headed by divorced/separated persons are women-headed, with divorced men heading 38.7 per cent of the remaining households (256,074).
Painting the picture of the evolving marriage institution in Kenya, the report showed that over the past decade, divorce and separation rates have grown.
“Nationally, most of the male heads with children are either widowed or divorced/separated. However, for women heads with children, there is no significant difference among the various marital status,” the KNBS report stated.
Among the 7.4 million male-headed households in Kenya, the report showed, 256,074 (or 3.4 per cent of them) are headed by men who have been divorced or separated. On the other hand, out of the 4,579,574 households headed by women in 2019, 405,515 (or 8.85 per cent of them) were headed by women who have been divorced or separated from their spouses.
The survey further showed that out of the 661,628 divorcees in the country in 2019, 40.8 per cent ended up living alone. Among the 256,074 clusters of divorced/separated men, those who ended up living alone formed the largest number at 70.6 per cent while 17.4 per cent ended up staying with their children.
On the other hand, among the 405,515 female-headed divorced/separated households, 22 per cent lived alone, 47.7 per cent lived with their children and 22.8 per cent with relatives. This shows that a large population of men prefer living alone after divorce or separation.
Mr Dennis Otieno, Legal Counsel at the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida-Kenya) indicated that most of the divorce cases they deal with were borne out of a financial imbalance between couples, mainly when a man loses income.
He added that while many blame infidelity for divorce and separation, the main reasons are always disagreements on financial lifestyles, broken communication, disrespect and other habits commonly considered of minimal impact.
“In many cases couples disagree on issues such as the neighbourhood to live in, schools to take kids, property ownership and other financial-related issues,” Mr Otieno said.
In 2009, as indicated in a 2017 KNBS report, just 4 per cent of Kenyans who reported as having ever been married had either been divorced or separated. This has grown to 5.5 per cent as reflected in the 2022 report.