Governor Kiraitu calls for change to Ameru cultural laws - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 3 October 2019

Governor Kiraitu calls for change to Ameru cultural laws

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi (centre) and
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi is pushing changes to Meru cultural laws to entrench gender equity and reduce cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

Meru cultural norms, he said, introduce gender discrimination from birth, as girls are welcomed with three rounds of ululation while boys get four.

The governor also wants the Njuri Ncheke council of elders to review traditional laws governing payment of bride price, citing an emerging trend where grooms are being made to give exorbitant gifts.

He maintained that bride price needs to be standardised in the Meru community to end exploitation of young men.

“We have seen cases where some families demand more than Sh1 million while others ask for Sh100,000,” he said. “The Njuri Ncheke, which sets the cultural laws, should standardise this to restore order. The bride price should not be a deterrent for marriage.”


He was speaking during a sensitisation forum for Njuri Ncheke officials on the Meru Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Policy by the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, a non-governmental organisation in Meru town.

Mr Murungi, who is also a Njuri Ncheke elder, called for reinforcement of the 1956 Njuri Ncheke order that banned female genital mutilation in the region that includes Meru and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

“As a county government, we have been focusing on physical development at the expense of social development,” he said. “This year, we want to focus on developing our social norms. This is why we were the first county to introduce the gender-based violence policy. We want to empower the Njuri Ncheke council of elders in implementing the social change.”


The council of elders, the governor said, would be engaged in implementing the SGBV policy by ensuring all cases are prosecuted.

He also warned the elders against using Njuri Ncheke courts, which handle civil matters, to settle cases of gender-based violence.

“There have been cases where Njuri Ncheke courts fine people for defilement instead of forwarding such matters to courts of law,” he said. “Elders must not purport to hear cases of defilement, rape or any sexual assault.”

He said his administration would incorporate the council of elders in governance in a bid to address moral and cultural issues.

“We need to engage elders in teaching our young men during initiation so that we bring up mature men,” he said. “There have been cases where initiates are injured or killed because we have left them at the whims of cultural amateurs.”


Mr Murungi also raised concern over the growing adoption of Kikuyu music among the Meru, warning that the Meru may be assimilated.

The Njuri Ncheke secretary-general for programmes, Mbaya Muthamia, said elders would meet at the council’s headquarters to look at the proposals.

“We have also been receiving complaints from parents who are asked to pay up to Sh2 million in bride price. The council of elders will look into how we can standardise the dowry by stating the value of the items provided for in our culture,” he said.

The Njuri Nceke director of culture, Silas Gitiye, said the top council of 41 elders will first meet to examine the proposed changes before forwarding them to the elders assembly for endorsement.

The elders said they would work closely with women’s groups to effectively address gender-based violence.

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