Marriage vetting cuts divorce rates and early marriages in Lamu

System does not allow under-18s to marry

In Summary
  • Before October 2018, Pate Island – the home of the Bajuni – had been notorious for school dropouts and high divorce rates.
  • The system has forced many people to work on their marriages instead of rushing for divorce.


A marriage vetting system introduced three years ago is the reason for a drop in rates of divorce, early marriages and unwanted pregnancies on Pate Island, Lamu East.

Pate island, which is the home of the Bajuni, had, until two years ago when elders and religious leaders came up with the vetting system, been notorious for high numbers of school dropouts and divorces.

Many girls and boys dropped out of school to marry.

The vetting system demands that those intending to marry must be thoroughly examined by a special committee of the council of elders. The committee either approves the marriage or disapproves with reasons.

The system was introduced in October 2018 with the major objective of curbing child marriages and soaring divorce rates.

One must, during the vetting process, present to the committee a national ID card as proof that they are over 18 years and ready for marital duties.

Those without an ID are not allowed to marry even if they say they are over 18.

This has boosted the education of girls in the region as there are no more forced marriages.

Pate village leader Ahmed Abii said the system has also forced many people to work on their marriages instead of rushing for divorce.

“Young people no longer joke with marriage. We have also managed to curb the issue of young girls being forced to marry. Marriage is for the mature at heart," Abii said.

Elder Omar Abubakar said the number of girls enrolling in schools has also increased considerably.

He warned that dating a schoolgirl is courting trouble. “We are glad that the community is with us on this and they have embraced the system,” he said.

“Most of the marriages in the past were either forced or between very young couples who couldn’t tolerate troubles in unions, hence the high divorce rates. The vetting system ensures that people understand what they are getting and that marriage is not a bed of roses,” Abubakar said.