Progress in Kenya: Kenya legalises polygamy without wife's consent

By Peter MARTELL/Nairobi (AFP) –

Kenya’s parliament has passed a bill allowing men to marry as many women as they want, prompting a furious backlash from female lawmakers who stormed out, reports said Friday.

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The bill, which amended existing marriage legislation, was passed late on Thursday to formalise customary law about marrying more than one person.

The proposed bill had initially given a wife the right to veto the husband’s choice, but male members of parliament overcame party divisions to push through a text that dropped this clause.

“When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa,” MP Junet Mohammed told the house, according to Nairobi’s Capital FM.

Women are not allowed to marry more than one man in Kenya.

The bill must now pass before the president to be signed before becoming law.

As in many parts of Africa, polygamy is common among traditional communities in Kenya, as well as among the country’s Muslim community, which accounts for up to a fifth of the population.

“Any time a man comes home with a woman, that would be assumed to be a second or third wife,” said Samuel Chepkong’a, chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, the Daily Nation newspaper reported.

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Kenyans walk past the parliament building in Nairobi …

Kenyans walk past the parliament building in Nairobi on September 5, 2013 (AFP Photo/Simon Maina)

“Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you’re coming home with a second or third wife. Any lady you bring home is your wife,” he added.

– Men fear ‘women’s tongues’ –

Female MPs stormed out of the late-night session in fury after a heated debate.

“We know that men are afraid of women’s tongues more than anything else,” female legislator Soipan Tuya told fellow MPs, according to Capital FM.

“But at the end of the day, if you are the man of the house, and you choose to bring on another party — and they may be two or three — I think it behoves you to be man enough to agree that your wife and family should know,” she added.

A clause in which a partner who had promised marriage but then backed out of the wedding could face financial damages was also dropped, as male MPs argued it could have been used to extort cash.

They also argued that marriage should be based on love, and not have a financial cost placed upon it.

Parliamentary majority leader Aden Duale, a Muslim, said that men marrying more than one woman was part of the Islamic faith, but also highlighted Biblical stories to justify Christians not asking their wife before taking another.

“I want my Christian brothers to read the Old Testament — King David and King Solomon never consulted anybody to marry a second wife,” Duale told the house.

Women are not allowed to marry more than one man in Kenya.

The bill must now pass before the president to be signed before becoming law.

3 thoughts on “Progress in Kenya: Kenya legalises polygamy without wife's consent”

  1. for the first time I don’t agree with an article you post!…I lived in Kenya more than 25 years and in remote areas with different tribes ( called ethnic groups, but tribes is the same and does NOT offend them, it’s only not politically correct for the foreigners…).
    My staff was composed by dozens of people and most of them had more than one wife, NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION, in fact 99% of them were following tribals traditions and many were christians.
    The life and environment was almost ‘obliging’ them to have more than one wife, split in different areas , looking after the animals and giving them many children , essential for the future . The first wife was respected by the others, and there was ( is), no envy or competition between themselves. We must live there and consider the situation and the mentality, the tradition and the difference in mentality, we can’t measure the situation based on our culture, tradition and ‘feelings’. Different story for the muslims living in modern environments where situations are completely different. The NGO s and foreigners going there to ‘impose’ our mentality. I learned that by living really in contact with them and respecting them, learning also things that are essential there, and could be absurd here.
    Sorry for my poor english :'(

  2. I acknowledge what you are saying, but I beg to differ.

    Having been to Kenya myself I am fully aware of tribal and customary polygamy. This article, however, addresses the issue of Mohammedan polygamy and women in parliament who vehemently oppose it.

    Kenya, under Obama buddy Odinga, was forced to accept sharia law after riots that killed more than 4000 people. That, and now institutionalised polygamy will not do anything to bring Kenya forward. On the contrary, I believe it will have terrible consequences.

  3. …happy to agree with you once more !!!…I know what you mean and I saw also in Northern Kenya the disaster of islamists converting people who did NOT understand the meaning of it, by giving them food during drought in exchange of wearing a veil…on naked breasts ( !!)! Yes, Sheik Yer…we agree also this time . Thank you !

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