Kate Humble has spent time with communities all over the world, and has been struck by how often the roles of men and women tell us something about how a society works, and how the everyday lives of women in particular reveal its values.
In this series, premiering on Friday 10 Nov at 9.00pm on BBC Two, she explores three diverse and extraordinary communities in Kenya, Israel and India, where the roles of women are exceptional, complex and sometimes extreme.
In the first episode, Kate is in southwest Kenya in the district of Kuria, a predominantly Christian area. Traditionally cattle-herding warriors, the Kuria people are now mostly agricultural farmers, but cattle remain important as currency in marriage. The Kuria are polygamous, so men marry a number of wives. But what makes this community so fascinating is that they also practice woman-to-woman marriage known as Nyumba Mboke. These woman-to-woman marriages aren’t sexual, and the young Nyumba Mboke wives become pregnant by men outside of the household, or come to the family already having had a child.
While visiting the local church, Kate hears the preacher warn against an issue that is at the heart of this community: female genital mutilation (FGM). The Church supports the growing battle against it, and FGM was made illegal in Kenya in 2011, but circumcision is a tradition that is firmly rooted in Kuria society.
The circumcision of boys is legal and is viewed as an important rite of passage into adulthood. Along with journalist and local man, Peter Murimi, Kate talks to people in the community, anti-FGM campaigners and even manages to get a meeting with the tribal elders who say they can’t support the ending of FGM as they believe it will anger their god Eresa.
Despite being made illegal in Kenya, and the numbers of those mutilated slowly decreasing, those most at risk are young girls in rural areas like Kuria – and Kate makes a horrifying discovery just before the end of her visit.
Extreme Wives With Kate Humble Episode 1 (of 3) airs Friday 10 November 2017 from 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC Two.