Divorce: The 6 Accepted Grounds for Divorce in Meru

African family: divorce was rare in Meru

When we talked about Marriage in Meru, we promised to cover divorce too. Because, sometimes, what starts has to end. By the way, divorce was very rare in traditional Meru. Actually, it was harder to divorce than to get married. These are the only circumstances under which divorce would have occured:


We said last time that the real purposes fro marriage was to have children. And only the woman would have possibly been infertile (oops!) In this case, if the man did not wish to keep the barren woman, he would call not less than four Njuri Ncheke elders and his male relatives to listen to his case. If they agreed she had taken too long to get children, she would be handed over to her father.

Any paid dowry would be refunded except the drum of honey.

2. Refusal of Sex

What if it was man that was impotent? Well, he was allowed to look for a man of his group to sleep with his wife and bear children. If the wife refused to have sex with the other guy, divorce would be simply granted.

If both were healthy and able to have sex but the wife refused to sleep with her husband, the man would be advised to marry other women. However, if it was the husband to blame, he would be required to get a friend of his age to satisfy his wife. Well, not satisfy, but give her children. Divorce was granted if this didn’t work.

Any paid dowry would be refunded  if they did not have any children…except the drum of honey.

3. Witchcraft

To the Ameru, if one didn’t die of old age, it was deemed he/she was bewitched. Thus, a witch was like a nurderer and a woman who was suspected of witchcraft would be taken before the Njuri Ncheke and if proven, divorce was granted. If it was a man, he would be made to take an oath to neutralise the uchawi.

Dowry would be refunded depending on the number of children.

4. Desertion

If the wife left her husband for a long time without reason, divorce would be granted if the man wanted. However, if it was the man that left his wife for an unreasonable time, she would be allowed to stay with the husband’s relatives.

5. Cruelty

A woman was NEVER allowed to hit back when he husband punished her. If she did, for whatever reason, she would be divorced if the man wanted. The wife would be allowed to petition Njuri Ncheke if the beatings were too much and unwarranted, in which case a divorce would be granted.

But if the woman was of good character and the man that was being an ass, the woman would be made Muka-o-Njuri (wife of Njuri) if she had children. If you became a Muka-o-Njuri, you had immunity from your husband or anyone else, and your house would be built apart. If he ever hit you again… he would be beaten to death. She was not obliged to give conjugal rights to the husband, but he would be allowed to visit, like a thief.

6. Adultery (without the man’s consent)

Note the Keyword – without the man’s consent. Because a man was allowed to offer his wife to another man to, you know, sleep with. Especially if he couldn’t have children or he just didn’t feel like it.

If the wife committed adultery with a man of her husband’s age group, the man would decide if he wanted a divorce or not. Unless she became too much, when the man would be required to compensate the husband for the adultery. (This was called KIRINGA RWITO and would usually be a bull or a ram). If the woman committed adultery with an older or younger man, the matter would have to be decided by Njuri Ncheke for both to be punished.

The two men (the hubby and the mpango wa kando) would sometimes simply talk  and maliza maneno like men. It was no big deal. That said, HIV is bad. 🙂

Main Image: Rogue Guides

If you are married, try to stay together till death do you part.  The Ameru hates divorce. Sawa?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *