, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 8 – The Cabinet has approved a law which will recognise come-we-stay arrangements of over six months as legal marriages.
The Marriage Bill proposes that chiefs will be enabled to considered ‘come-we-stay’ affairs that last more than six months as a marriage and to register them as such.
‘Come-we-stay’ unions usually arise where a man and a woman commence living together as husband and wife and even have children without formalising of their union.
The law which brings together Christian, Islamic and Hindu marriages as well as marriages consummated under Civil and African Customary law provides legal protection to all marriages and will facilitate the protection of the rights of children and spouses in all types of marriages in the country.
Come-we-stay unions appear to be now very prevalent and more so, among youngsters despite the fact that these unions have faced religious condemnation.
Many Kenyans are now ‘married’ in this manner and the situation can no longer be ignored or wished away.
Further, people who may not have means to carry out traditional or civil marriages have also taken advantage of this state of affairs to ‘get married’.
The Marriage Bill also provides for maintenance of spouses and children in a situation where a marriage has broken down or divorce has occurred after co-habiting.
The Cabinet which met under the chairmanship of President Mwai Kibaki also passed a law which if approved by Parliament will see pre-nuptial contracts and equal rights to spouses became legal.
The Matrimonial Property Bill provides for the rights and responsibilities of spouses in relation to matrimonial property.
It recognises the capacity of either spouse to acquire separate property during marriage.
It also makes provisions for how persons professing the Islamic faith should be governed by Islamic law in all matters relating to matrimonial property.
Further, the Bill provides for how matrimonial property shall be dealt with in cases of polygamous as well as customary marriages.
The Bill also allows for spouses to enter agreements as to how they will own property either separately or collectively.
It also provides for division of matrimonial property between and among spouses within the context of customary law, particularly in polygamous unions.