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Underage marriage still rampant in Kenya

15 January 2016, 14:13 PSCU

Nairobi - Eight out of 100 Kenyan women (eight per cent) get married at a tender age of 15 years while three in every ten women marry at the age of between 15-19 years. This is mostly prevalent in Narok, Migori, Tana River and Homa Bay counties according to a new survey.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS 2014), the rural-urban differences are small, indicating that early childbearing is nearly the same across place of residence.

“Prevalence of early childbearing is highest in the Nyanza region followed by Rift Valley and Coast; it is lowest in Central and North Eastern region. Slightly more than three in 10 women age 15-19 with no education have begun child bearing compared with only 12 per cent among those who have a secondary or higher level of education,” notes the report

“Similarly, teenagers from poorer households are more likely to have begun childbearing (26 per cent) than are teenagers from wealthier households (10 per cent).”

The survey shows the proportion of teenagers who have begun childbearing has not changed since the 2008-09 KDHS. “While most women have their first birth at the age of 20 years, just slightly later than the median age at first marriage, 18 per cent of young women age 15-19 have begun childbearing: 15 per cent have already had a live birth and an additional three per cent are pregnant with their first child,” notes the report in part.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, teenage childbearing varies widely with counties – from a low of six per cent in Murang’a to a high of 40 per cent (40 out of 100) in Narok.

“Women living in Migori, Tana River, and Homa Bay marry the earliest, at just over 17 years. Women living in Nyeri marry the latest, at a median age of 21.8 years,” observes the report. “Overall, more than one-quarter of women are married by age 18, while eight per cent are married by age 15.”

Educational influence

Read Also: Beating by husband ok, Kenyan women say

The report released Thursday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre by Planning Principal Secretary Torome Saitoti shows that on average, women and men initiate sexual intercourse before marriage, at a median age of 18 for women and 17.4 for men. “The survey shows 15 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men had first sex by age 15,” it notes.

“Young women with no education are much more likely to have begun childbearing (33/100) compared to those with secondary or higher education (12 out of 100).”

According to the survey, six in ten women and five in 10 men age 15-49 are currently married or living together. Women marry at an age of 20.2 years (women age 25-49) while men marry about five years later, at a median age of 25.3 (among men age 30-49).

The KDHS however shows marriage age increases with education.

The report says women with secondary or higher education marry almost five years later than women with no education (median age of 22.7 versus 17.9). Age at marriage varies widely by county of residence.

According to the report, 11 out of 100 women (11per cent of women) aged 15-49 report that they have at least one co-wife – are in a polygamous union.

Polygamy is most common among women with no education (32 per cent) and among women from the poorest households (24 per cent). Six per cent of men age 15-49 report that they have more than one wife.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says about 31,079 women age 15-49 and 12,819 men age 15-54 in selected households were interviewed. This represents a response rate of 97 per cent of women and 90 per cent of men.

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- News24

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