, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 23 – Parliament’s Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs will begin nationwide public hearings on the controversial Marriage Bill from August 5.
The Bill that seeks to introduce major changes in the institution of marriage was introduced before Parliament last Tuesday.
Committee chairman Samuel Chepkonga said the 29-member House team will be divided into four groups which will be hold simultaneous sittings in Nyeri, Nakuru, Siaya, Kakamega, Isiolo, Homa Bay, Kisii, Migori, Wajir, Garissa, Eldoret and Meru.
The House Committee is expected to submit its report on the Bill to House within 20 days.
A section of MPs have vowed to reject the Bill when it comes back on the floor of the House saying they will only support it if it is ‘Africanised’.
Members of the clergy last week petitioned the Attorney General to withdraw the Bill to allow for public participation.
Church leaders on Sunday stated that the draft should get the input from other players like the church because ‘some practices in marriages are not acceptable.’
Radical changes contained in the Bill include allowing polygamy. Some of the controversial clauses that were contained in the first draft of the Bill such as making payment of dowry illegal and recognizing come-we-stay arrangements as legal marriages have been deleted.
The Bill recognizes both monogamous and ‘potentially polygamous’ marriages. A man wishing to be in a polygamous marriage must however submit to the Registrar of Marriages a statement containing the names of the existing wife or wives and their consent to the subsequent marriage.
The Bill further provides for a certificate to be issued when such marriages take place, reducing the chances of women being neglected by their spouses or excluded from an inheritance because they had no proof of marriage.
It was also aimed at assisting women and children who have in the past been disinherited after the death of their husbands and fathers because there had been no formal marriage.
The director of marriage and marriage officers will make the process of marriage easier. Furthermore, the director will register all unions, perform civil nuptials and issue certificates for registered marriages and determine rules governing customary marriages.
The Bill proposes the legal recognition of polygamy under Muslim or customary marriage provided that a man declares before marrying his first wife that it is a potentially polygamous union.
Polygamy would not be allowed for those taking part in a Christian or civil marriage. Those who enter second marriages illegally could be jailed for five years and/or fined Sh300,000 or both.
Women’s rights groups have backed the law as it guarantees spouses equal rights to matrimonial property, protecting the rights of the first wife who is often neglected when a man takes a second, younger wife
According to the proposed law, either spouse will have authority to pledge the other spouse’s credit to borrow money in his or her name.