MPs are proposing the removal of a provision in the marriage Bill that requires a man planning to marry more than one wife to seek the consent of his wife or wives.
In a report to guide MPs before the Bill’s Second Reading began on Tuesday, the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee’s most far-reaching proposal was the removal of the clause.
In the Bill, a couple wishing to marry are required to provide the Registrar of Marriages and the person conducting the ceremony written notice of not less than 21 days.
In case of a “subsequent marriage”, the Bill says, a notice would also be required to declare whether the wife or wives have been informed. It should also state whether the wife or wives approve or disapprove.
By proposing the removal of the clause, the committee is opening the way for a man to marry other women without informing his wife or wives.
NO CONSENT REQUIRED
Committee chairman Samuel Chepkong’a said the idea that a man should seek consent to marry other wives was “very uncustomary.”
“They were seeking to quantify civil marriages under customary law and so we have proposed that particular section be deleted.”
Mr John Mureithi Waiganjo (Oljoorok, TNA) said if women did not like polygamy, they should avoid customary marriage.
“If you do not want a situation where your husband marries more than one wife, then go the Christian way, or the civil marriage way. The parameters are there and its clear, he cannot marry again. If you stay in an arrangement that we call ‘come-we-stay’ then of course, you are vulnerable,” said Mr Waiganjo.
Kiambu MP Nyokabi Gathecha said she did not expect any of her male colleagues to oppose the Bill.
“We know what you want but we want to ensure those particular unions (currently) unrecognised and those other children are taken care of.”
Ms Regina Nthambi (Kilome, Wiper) accused male MPs of blindly supporting the Bill and said she would propose changes. She said in many cases, men marry younger women when their wives are “worn out”.
“All the time, women are victims. They have no property, you marry, after sometime you think that woman can be divorced, you go and look for another person,” she said.
The proposed law recognises polygamy, the payment of bride price for customary marriages and also provides for the various grounds on which a couple can seek a divorce.
It regulates Christian, civil, customary and Hindu marriages, which are under the seven separate laws that will be repealed when the Marriage Bill becomes law.