Kenya Parliament Passes Polygamy Bill, Women MPs Outraged

The Kenyan parliament passed a controversial bill that would allow men to take on new wives without the consent of their current wives.
Posted at 3:00 PM, Mar 22, 2014

Kenya's parliament has passed a controversial amendment to the country's marriage bill allowing men to take on multiple wives without consulting their current partners first. And women in Kenya's parliament are not happy.

In Kenya, where polygamy is legal and not unusual under customary law, some women say it is at least courteous for a man to notify his wife, or wives, about an addition. Women are not allowed more than one husband. (Via YouTube / Kenya Citizen TV)

During the vote, female MPs stormed out of the session in frustration. Of the 349-member parliament, 69 are women. The argument one male MP made was "When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife.” (Via New York Daily News

Though a legal officer at the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness explained, "When it comes to properties after the death of a husband, if the Bill is passed then it will be shared equally amongst all ... Unfortunately in most cases the first wife is the one who has toiled the hardest compared to the other wives yet her opinion is not sought in this regard.” (Via Capital FM Kenya)

The BBC talked to one MP who walked out of the vote, and she says there is at least one upside to the new amendment — many polygamist marriages effective in practice will now be effective in the eyes of the law. 

"Those customary marriages, which in the past were not recognized by law, are now recognized and will be protected by law." 

The BBC also points out a change to marriage law in Kenya has been in the works for years and a number of proposals have been scraped in the process. 

Before the bill can become law it must be signed by Kenya's president.