The Cultural way of dealing with adultery among Bukusu Community of Kenya
Written by Timothy Makokha
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Elders could not condone any form of misbehavior such as adultery (bukhobani). The man was the one to pay as it was believed that it is always the man who lures women into adultery. The man would be charged for making love to a married woman of another man.
This cultural practice would only be conducted when the two are found on spot. Rumors or gossip about people having sexual affairs were never taken serious by elders as they would always ask for a tangible evidence for them to make a ruling.
If the woman is not married or if married but the husband has not paid dowry, silukhi could not be done. The purpose of the cultural practice is to pay for sleeping with a married woman on a different man’s bed (orunga khukhola sifwabi khubulili bwabene).
The penalty is a cow (ekhafu sisonga) and a ram (likhese limiku) of any color apart from a black one. The purpose of silukhi is to make the man poor as a punishment for misbehavior. Elders would pick the specified animals by force from the man’s home and slaughter them in the compound where they were found in the act.
The two are then instructed to go back in the house and repeat the sexual act as the rest of the people who came to witness the scene enjoy the meat outside the same house. After that, the woman is then instructed to give pieces of the cow’s intestines to women who came to witness them. The man is also given small pieces of meat to give to men present at the event.
A person with cultural spirits (owe kumukasa) is not supposed to taste meat in this cultural practice.
Then a distant relative to the family (omukulo) or an elder would pick a little contents of the rumen from the slaughtered sheep (buse) and sprinkle it on the bed where the two were found (likhese lie khuosia bulili). The purpose of slaughtering the ram in this ceremony is to cleanse the beddings that were used to commit the crime (silukhi).
In case the two were found red handed but in the bush, a ram is not slaughtered as it was believed there was nothing to cleanse. It’s only the cow that is slaughtered in the homestead of the woman.
Traditionally, nobody was allowed to beat a spouse for committing adultery. The traditional cultural practice finished everything and a person was expected to shake hands with the man or woman with whom he/she had shared a spouse.
In case the adultery was related to incest (luswa) where the parties involved were related, the penalty depended on the closeness of relation. If the kinship relation was strong like that of father and daughter, brother and sister, or between cousins, the two were usually chased from the clan under the authority of the clan chairperson.
If the kinship relation is not strong, the two may be allowed to marry and a neck of broken pot (sicho) is put at the top of the house (khulusuli). The elders would ensure the piece of broken pot remain at the top most of the house of the culprits as a symbol for everybody to know that the couple in that particular house are related not only by marriage but also by blood.
It was an abomination (luswa) for a man to found in a sexual relationship with daughter-in-law. This could only happen if the son dies after marrying, pay dowry and cultural practices that confirm a marriage and there was nobody to inherit the widow.
In this case a cow would be slaughtered and all the intestines, stomachs and other interior organs removed and the widow and her father-in-law enter the hollow stomach of the slaughtered cow briefly and come out. They will have washed away the relation (khukhwinyosiao bukhwe) and can become intimate and re-marry as husband and wife.