A few days ago, the Kenyan Parliament passed what were supposed to be changes to marriage law but look more like an assault on women’s rights. The impetus is now on President Uhuru Kenyatta to make sure that this bill is not signed in its current form. The current marriage bill assaults women’s rights from all angles. Where are the women in Kenya, allowing such as a bill to go on the President’s desk?
Only 30% of Family Wealth
According to the marriage bill that was passed recently, women are only entitled to 30% of the family’s wealth after death or divorce. Do women only work 30% of the time? In fact in most African households, women work harder. If they want to use this logic perhaps its time for women to keep a log of everything they do (LOL) and we can see who actually works harder.
The new law allows men who are married under customary law to take new wives without consulting their current spouses. Why are female voters rewarding MPs Aden Duale, Jakoyo Midiwo and Junet Mohammed? Were these men not elected by female voters too? According to Duale, “I want my Christian brothers to read the Old Testament, King David and King Solomon never consulted anybody to marry a second wife.” Obviously Duale didn’t read the Bible or he would have known that some of Israel’s major problems came as a result of David and Solomon taking many wives. And he has the audacity to try and use the Bible as justification for their actions when by the same token, one would also say God only created Adam and Eve, not Adam, Eve and Evelyn. Read the Bible Duale if you are going to quote it. Perhaps if people like Duale quote the words they haven’t read we can be assured that he is not reading the bills he votes for in Parliament.
This is Africa
According to Junet Mohammed, “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa,”. No culture ever survives without learning good things from other cultures. Polygamy has not profited many African families, it often leads to more poverty, disease and broken families. What good is coming out of polygamy in 2014, besides temporary satisfaction of a man’s lusts and ego? Most men in Africa certainly do not make enough to feed, clothe and shelter their first family, what more when they take a second family?
Who said in Africa, people do not have a right to pursue other ideas? A man who thinks we must just pursue the status quo may not be fit to lead Kenya in the 21st century. We all have to change. Progress is the very foundation of human behavior and life. If you want to bask in the customs of yesteryear that oppress others, perhaps you don’t need to be in Parliament. Look around you Sir, if all Africans thought like you, we might all be in a bush somewhere just hoping for the best.
Must be 18 or Older
One useful provision in this bill is that marriage can only occur at the age of 18 regardless of culture. This is definitely positive because it prevents young girls from being married off in the name of culture.
Must Be Registered
All marriages including customary marriages must be registered. Perhaps this is also a good thing because it gives women some legal recourse if things do not go according to plan. For the women, while you are registering your customary marriage it may be a good idea to register for another type of marriage that will protect you in the long run. The list of approved marriages includes,
2. Civil marriages
3. Customary marriages
4. Hindu marriages
5. Islāmic marriages
The new law did not adopt the ban on bride price and acceptance of cohabiting relationships. More information about the types of marriages allowed in Kenya can be found under the Kenya Law Reform Commission http://www.klrc.go.ke/index.php/bills/459-marriage-bill-2012
There currently opposition to the bill from Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir who believes that the current bill will erode family values. Where are the women’s rights groups? Let their voices be hear too.
By Lillian Mhosva 2014