Monday, April 14, 2014

Polygamy in Kenya

Polygamy is an ancient practice in Kenya, but proposed new legislation that codifies that existing wives need not be consulted about new wives is causing some controversy. Here are two headlines that give the picture even before you start reading the stories...

Kenya’s new marriage law legalises polygamy
Kenyan Christian leaders oppose polygamy bill

From the first story:
"Kenya’s male-dominated parliament passed a new controversial marriage law not only legalises polygamy, but allows men to marry without consulting their other spouses. A majority of lawmakers - all men - even agreed to drop a proposal to ban bride price payments (usually in the form of cows). 
According to local news reports, half of Kenya’s 69 female MPs refused to take part in the debate held in the 349-member parliament last week. The women who did attend parliament stormed out in protest. 
Traditionally, first wives are supposed to give prior approval for their husband’s second marriage. According to Samuel Chepkong’a, the MP who proposed the amendment to this custom, however, no consultation is necessary because a woman who gets married under customary law already knows the marriage is open to polygamy. 
“When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa,” Chepkong’a was quoted as saying by Kenya’s Capital News website. "
And from the second story:
"NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Christian leaders are appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign into law a proposed new marriage bill that legalizes polygamy.
"But the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, have rejected it, saying the law will undermine Christian principles of marriage and family.
The Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary the Kenyan church council, said the bill demeans women and fails to respect the principle of spouses’ equality in marriage."

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