, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 12 – There was heated debate during Tuesday’s National Assembly sitting after MPs deleted provisions in the Matrimonial Property Bill which wanted spouses to share property equally in case of separation or divorce.
Eighty-seven MPs voted to peg share of property to contributions made by a spouse, while 28 legislators were pushing for a 50-50 share.
Women legislators were categorical that domestic labour, companionship, taking care of children, farm work and house chores, were all part of “non-monetary contributions” which ought to be quantified.
“Sometimes when a woman is married she may not be employed but I want you know that when she cleans the house, takes care of the husband and her family that is also a contribution and she has a right to get equal share,” stated Mombasa County Women Representative Mishi Juma.
“Whether the woman has contributed or not, she is entitled to 50 percent” argued Nyeri Town MP Esther Murugi.
But Turkana South MP James Lomenen wondered: “Before you marry, you pay a lot of dowry… so many cows, and after you pay all that, do you again share the remaining property?”
“When in a marriage every partner should make an effort, but if taken for granted that everything will be shared equally I don’t think that is fair.”
When it was all said and done some male MPs could be heard (over Parliament’s public address system) saying ‘hakuna vile tungewacha ngombe na shamba iende’ (There is no way we could let both our land and livestock to be taken).
Another stormy amendment came when the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Samuel Chepkonga moved to define matrimonial property as “both immovable and movable property jointly owned or acquired during the subsistence of a marriage.”
Chepkonga said most of male MPs loved their daughters, and whatever gifts they give the daughters on their wedding day should not be included under matrimonial property.
The flipside is that the sons, too, will keep their gifts away from the matrimonial homes.
MPs John Mbadi (Suba) and Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda) opposed the amendment saying “it does not protect their daughters’ welfare in a marriage.”
“If it were the case of my wife it would be very easy to deal with because I always register property with my wife… I’m protecting my sisters, my daughters, whom I don’t know how her husband will behave,” said Mbadi.
“This law we are passing here is not for men or women it for all of us, we are part of this country where men sit and do nothing while the women work and gain property but they want to lay claim to it and vice versa. So, Let us give this law time to mature and with time it will be found to be a good law,” Gumbo argued.
But Majority Leader Aden Duale differed arguing that the House should legislate with African marriages in mind.
“It is difficult to legislate in the African context, where unions are very complex and because we don’t want to kill this Bill, we should try and look for a win-win situation because we are passing a law for the bedroom here,” Duale said.