Come-we-stay has arguably become the “new normal” in society today. In fact, a new research reveals that as high as 87 per cent of men and 72 per cent of women aged 25 to 34 in Kenya are in these informal unions, and only 1.4 per cent are formalised annually.

The research, published by The Standard was carried out by African Population Health Research Centre (APHRC), University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Michigan, Population Council-Kenya and was published by the Journal of Marriage and Family on August 6, 2018.

According to the study, shifts in marriage are especially striking in Nairobi, where the average age of marriage is the highest in the country — 22.1 for women and 26.1 for men — and where the majority of young adults in unions are cohabiting rather than married.

Findings show that young men in Nairobi are delaying marriage until they have an assured source of income to care for a wife and children. Unlike traditionally, marriage for the city man is now a much more personal and lonely decision pegged on income.

Women, on the other hand, are scouring for an income as security to marry who and when they want to or not marry at all. For women, “early marriage” is described as a social ill, associated with dropping out of school and possible life-long suffering to be avoided.

The report says that one coping mechanism for both sexes is delaying marriage, which favours non-marital unions such as ‘come we stay’ arrangements.

The study also shows that many Kenyan women are getting married while pregnant. The article by The Standard reveals that of the 30 study countries, Kenya was among the top 10 with almost a quarter (22%) of women getting their first child out of wedlock. Ethiopia marked only about five per cent while Uganda and Tanzania marked 14 per cent each.

While many of these unwed mothers may get married later on, the study shows that the duration they take before they marry has increased from about three years in the 90s to about four years today.

Many factors contribute to this, but the most predominant factor is women’s increasing participation in paid employment that enables them to be breadwinners and take care of their children without marriage.