NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 13 – The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA-K) has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to reject the Matrimonial Property Bill passed by Parliament on Tuesday.
FIDA Executive Director Christine Ochieng told Capital FM News that the law contravenes Article 45 of the Constitution which states that parties are: “Entitled to equal rights at the time of the marriage, during the marriage and at the dissolution of the marriage.”
The decision therefore to change the provision that required matrimonial property to be split down the middle, Ochieng contended, contravenes the Constitution.
“The issue of proving contribution is irrelevant because the Constitution does not talk about proof of contribution; the Constitution talks about equality at the dissolution of marriage. And it should be 50-50 automatically… there was no need of even debating or raising an amendment,” she said.
The women’s’ rights lobby also took issue with the amendment that states only property, “jointly owned or acquired during the subsistence of a marriage,” would be considered for division at the dissolution of marriage.
“Land for example where women are married belongs to the father-in-law. You develop the house in that particular area so that means that will not be part of your property yet you contributed and many times property is actually registered in the males’ names and that is something the legislators ought to have appreciated,” she said.
The provision that requires debt to be shared at the dissolution of marriage as long as it was, “for the benefit of the marriage,” did not escape the FIDA management’s notice either.
Ochieng said this wording left room for abuse adding that the same rules the legislators adopted where the sharing of matrimonial property is concerned should apply to debt.
“When somebody is incurring a debt it should be the couple actually incurring the debt. Not an issue of one person going to incur the debt and not consulting the other party and then turning around and saying that it was for the benefit of the family,” she said.
FIDA’s concerns mirror those raised by the majority of women on the floor of Parliament and some men on Tuesday but they were unfortunately outnumbered 87-28 leading to the passage of the bill – contentious portions included.