, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 28 – The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has called upon the Judiciary to increase the number of judges in the Family Division of the High Court.
The lawyers, for instance want Judges at the Milimani Law Courts increased from the current two to 10 to deal with the backlogs of family disputes at the Court against the backdrop of increasing divorce cases and division of matrimonial property.
Led by LSK Vice Chairperson Lilian Omondi, the lawyers at the same time called on the Judiciary to establish a division of the High Court which will exclusively deal with matrimonial property.
They further urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to assent to the Matrimonial Property Bill 2013 arguing that time had come for the country to do away ancient, unconstitutional matrimonial laws.
Family lawyer Judy Thongori urged proponents of the Bill to accept it with the controversial amendments that were introduced by Parliament on November 12, arguing that they could be addressed at a later date.
“We have made gains on the Bill that sending back the Bill to Parliament for debate may kill the dream,” she said adding that the law had a lot of benefits.
“There is a lot of public mis-information on the Bill. It has provisions that cater for both professional and stay-at-home moms on ownership of matrimonial property.”
The lawyers were speaking during a breakfast meeting with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNDFW) on Thursday.
UN Women Country Director Zebib Kavuma said that the Constitution had transformative provisions on equality and non-discrimination that should be upheld.
Nominated Senator Judith Sijeny and Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire said that the Bill would be a pillar to both men and women when signed into law.
“We want President Kenyatta to sign the Bill into law then we shall deal with the few controversial clauses later,” argued Mbarire.
Parliament amended a section in the Bill providing that spouses share matrimonial property equally in the event of a divorce.
According to the amendment by the National Assembly, spouses must prove financial contribution to acquiring matrimonial property before claiming a stake.
At the time, 87 MPs voted to peg the 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.
But Turkana South MP James Lomenen held a different view all together.
“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?” he quipped.
“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.”