Allow me to express my views on this week’s endorsement of the law that makes polygamy legal in Kenya. I am not a legal expert but I would like to speak from the perspective of someone who deals regularly with family issues, as a husband, as a father and, above all, as a man. First of all, I think this was a harsh decision that will impact families negatively given the fact that it allows men to marry as many wives as they wish without consulting current spouse(s).
Traditionally, first wives are supposed to give prior approval. The new law will potentially fuel family breakdowns as men will be encouraged to get after other women if they feel they are not satisfied with their marriage, and this will only destroy the definition of a family as we knew it.
The new law might also fuel bad practices that were on the verge of getting extinct and which promote violence against women. For example, neglect of an existing family as the man gets excited with the new family. Legitimate demands from the “old wife” may lead to wrangles (especially property related) which may spread to the extended family and sometimes the community. The situation would likely go from bad to worse in case of divorce or death of the polygamist husband.
The law is demeaning to women since it does not respect the principle of equality of spouses in the institution of marriage as argued by Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).
However, the heated debate in Parliament about the legislation shows that Kenya's 69 female MPs out of the 349-member chamber could hardly do anything to stop the bill sailing through. This should serve as a lesson to countries with significant under-representation of women in their parliaments; the result is that they are likely to easily pass gender-insensitive laws, like we saw this week in Kenya.
Franklin Gakuba Murangira, Bugesera