Though the kenyan parliament argued that a decision to marry another wife would affect the whole family, including the financial position of other spouses, as well as the bill being opposed by Christian leaders who according to their faith urged the president not to sign it into law, saying it undermined Christian principles of marriage and family, it was still finally signed into law.
“The tone of that bill, if it becomes law, would be demeaning to women since it does not respect the principle of equality of spouses in the institution of marriage,” Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), was quoted by Kenya’s Standard newspaper as saying.
The marriage legislation has been under discussion for several years and some initial proposals were scrapped at committee stages. It has abolished the practice of unofficial traditional marriages which were never registered and could be ended without any legal divorce proceedings.
But plans to ban the payment of bride prices were dropped – although a person must be 18 to marry and this now applies to all cultures. The law now allows for equal property and inheritance rights – previously a woman had to prove her contribution to the couple’s wealth.
There had also been a proposal to recognise co-habiting couples, known in Kenya as “come-we-stay” relationships, after six months, but this too was dropped. It would have allowed a woman to seek maintenance for herself and any children of the union, had the man left. I do hope the equal rights given to the wives would not be a problem in the will of the polygamist though.