And if you fear that you will not be fair in dealing with the orphans, then marry of women as may be agreeable to you, two, or three, or four; and if you fear you will not deal justly, then marry only one or what your right hands possess. That is the nearest way for you to avoid injustice. (Al Quran 4:4)
Female MPs in Kenya have stormed out of a late-night parliamentary session in a row over the legalisation of polygamy.
The law is intended to bring civil law, where a man is only allowed one wife, into line with customary law, where some cultures allow multiple partners.
But male MPs voted to amend the new marriage bill to allow men to take as many wives as they like without consulting existing spouses.
Traditionally, first wives are supposed to give prior approval.
Kenya’s marriage bill
- Bans marriage for those under 18
- All marriages – even customary unions – must be registered
- Legalises polygamy, allowing men to marry without consulting other spouses
- A woman entitled to 30% of matrimonial property
- Specifies that marriage is between a man and a woman, but does not explicitly ban custom of an infertile woman marrying a younger woman
- Proposals dropped: Banning bride price payments, recognising cohabiting, or “come-we-stay”, relationships
Correspondents say about 30 of Kenya’s 69 female MPs were in the 349-member chamber for the debate but were outnumbered by their male counterparts.
The women walked out in disgust over the matter.
The marriage bill now passes to the president to sign before it becomes law.
‘This is Africa’
MP Samuel Chepkong’a, who proposed the amendment, said that when a woman got married under customary law, she understood that the marriage was open to polygamy, so no consultation was necessary, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reports.