Kenyan Parliament Passes a Law Making Polygamy Legal


Kenya’s parliament passed a bill Thursday making it legal for a man to take multiple wives without the knowledge or consent of his original partner(s). The vote prompted female members of parliament to storm out in protest and one called the male members of parliament present “insecure” and “chauvinistic.”

In Kenya, the law currently dictates that a man can only have one legal wife, though many have other non-legal wives. “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife…this is Africa,” one member of parliament said. “Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you’re coming home with a second or third wife,” another added. “Any lady you bring home is your wife.” Their opposition argued that women have the right to know who will be joining their households ahead of time.

In November, the Kenyan parliament voted against a bill that would have given a woman divorcing her husband half of her family’s assets; according to the BBC, they settled at 30%. Other laws that have been debated recently concern bride prices and whether a minimum age for marriage should be implemented.

As BuzzFeed‘s Jina Moore reports, women’s rights are in a tenuous position in Kenya right now. When the country’s new constitution was written in 2010, it included a rule that required a certain number of seats in the government be held by women. A spending bill working its way through government right now might remove that requirement, much to the chagrin of the National Gender and Equality Commission.

The new polygamy law must be signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta before it goes into effect.

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