Mixed Reactions Following Kenyan`s Proposed Marriage and Matrimonial and Property Bills

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The recent proposed marriage and matrimonial and property bills in Kenya has attracted mixed reactions and caused divisions amongst Kenyans.

The Marriage Bill, which defines marriage as the voluntary monogamous or polygamous union between a man and a woman aims at granting the same legal status to all marriages.

However, many have ironically wondered whether the marriage and matrimonial and property bills will end up putting unnecessary pressure on the marriage institution rather than modernizing it. Worse still, with the parliament being dominated by men, who feel the bills might challenge their muscularity and put them in an awkward disadvantaged position, there is fear amongst Kenyans that the bills might be killed by selfishness.

” Why do you think I will favour bills that punish me and forcefully share my property with a mistress or even female prostitute just because of one innocent “˜I will marry you` statement? One MP, Mr. Onongo reacted angrily to our reporter, when he was reminded that part of the bills offers compensation for men and women whose partners promise marriage but fail to honour such a promise. ““ Although the concerned person must prove to a court that the said promise was made and its unfulfillment resulted in damages to the aggrieved party.

Unlike the previous bill that proposed full legalisation of the come-we-stay arrangements, the recent bill did just the opposite. It goes audaciously further to introduce polygamy in marriages and legalise the dowry payment. Interestingly, the new bill stipulates that a man who wants to engage in a polygamous marriage must, first obtain the consent of the existing wife or wives before engaging in such a polygamous relationship. Furthermore, the man must furnish the registrar with the name(s) of the existing wife or wives as the case may be. Very importantly, however, the bill does not have provisions for a woman who wants to engage in a polygamous marriage. In other words, does the new bill allow a woman ““ just like her male counterpart ““ to marry as many men as possible?

“This bill is cosmetic and sweetly coated in nature and it defeats the principle of equality. Normally, the aim of it is to modernise and democratise the marriage institution, unfortunately it ends up disenfranchising, and indeed, unsettling many women in stable marriage and reducing them to second class citizens.“ Ms Ruth Mwangi, an NGO co-ordinator in Nairobi lambasted.

But not all view the bills (the Marriage Bill and Matrimonial Property Rights bills) with negativity. Still operating on the Married Women and Property act of 1882 adopted from the British Government, many Kenyans see the recent bills as a significant and progressive step towards equality in the marriage. In a country where innocent women and their children are often dispossessed of their properties and denied their inheritance rights after the death of a woman`s husband, the proposed bills cannot come at a better time. More significantly, until now, customary marriages are not registerable, Nor are marriage certificates issued. Thus, the Marriage Bill and Matrimonial Property Rights bills are seen by many as a gigantic step towards gender equality and empowerment of women.
Despite the obvious merits, many MPs, most of them men, are skeptical about the bills. Interestingly, accordingly to Kata Kata`s investigations, most of these sceptic male MPs are either in a polygamous relationship or having concubines. Suffice it to say that these MPs might have suddenly discovered that their secret and nocturnal habits could indeed be expensive if the bills are not quickly killed. Unfortunately, as much as one could blame these MPs if the Marriage Bill and Matrimonial Property Rights bills are not passed, ironically the masses, who indeed elected these lawmakers must equally share some blames.

But not all hopes are lost. In a democratic country like Kenya, the masses ““ or electorates – have the final say. If Kenyans really see the Marriage Bill and Matrimonial Property Rights bills as the arbiter for gender equality and democratic rights, they must do the right thing – now. Kenyans must make sure they show that they are more powerful than the aloof MPs. More importantly, the masses must choose the MPs that speaking their democratic language and punish those who put their personal interests before those of the masses.

The ballot box is the power of the powerless ““ in a true democracy.

The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.