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Reject law that will discriminate against women

Friday March 21 2014

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The passing by Parliament on Thursday of a law allowing polygamy is shameful. Why do the MPs think that the country needs this kind of law now?

If assented to by the President, this law is likely to open the floodgates of polygamy. And this is going to create needless acrimony and divisions in many families.

The male MPs were only too happy to water down the Marriage Bill, which had given women the right to be consulted before their husbands marry a second or third wife.

The 11th Parliament risks earning itself notoriety for coming up with legislation that has no place in the 21st century. This is the era of equal rights, gender equity and fairness.

The kind of reasoning we heard in the National Assembly could have made a little more sense in the 1940s and 1950s, possibly into the 1960s, but not today.

In traditional African society, polygamy was a necessity for procreation to provide the numbers to forestall the immense economic and social challenges of the time.


This is a retrogressive move that is simply taking us back into the dark ages, at a time when we should be strengthening family values, succession and property rights, regardless of gender.

The idea that men can marry as many wives as they wish does not sit well with the expectations of a modern society like ours. Women are no longer chattels that have no say in decisions that directly affect them.

The question that arises is: Are we equal or are we not equal as human beings? If we are equal, then why shouldn’t women also bring home other husbands?

It is a pity that a Bill that has some very good provisions, has been injected with some archaic and chauvinistic views of a few MPs, and will not be as generally accepted.

The requirement for all marriages to be registered and the setting of a minimum age of marriage are progressive ideas aimed at protecting all the parties in such a union, but especially the children.

And shielding girls from early marriages is crucial, so that they, like the boys, can, too, have an opportunity to mature and explore their talents and potential, instead of being dragged off into marriages, where they end up being treated like slaves.

The women MPs, using their parliamentary privilege in such proceedings, were quite right to storm out, expressing their disgust over the blatant endorsement of legislation that is likely to undermine the gains their gender has made through the constitutional reforms in recent times.

It beats logic why one would want to soil a job that has been well-done. The challenge of lawmaking is to come up with legislation that does not disadvantage any segment of society.

Laws are meant to create order in society and, therefore, any form of discrimination along gender, race, class or other considerations, is clearly unconstitutional and must never be condoned.

However, the only saving grace is that there is one more stage at which the tyranny of numbers that prevailed in the debate can be checked.

President Kenyatta should refuse to assent to the Bill and send it back for further debate until these genuine concerns are addressed.

It is better to delay the benefits expected from the proposed law until the rotten bit is removed so that the whole can be enjoyed fully.