“Since we became independent and in the 10 lives of the Independent Parliament, we have not found time to legislate over our families. One could almost ask whether our independence has not just been skin-deep if we have not bothered to liberate our families from dictation by such colonial relics as the family Laws of 1962.”
– Judy Thongori, a leading Family Law practitioner
The history behind the failed attempts to enact a comprehensive Marriage Bill in our country is something former law lecturer, now Deputy Supreme Court Justice Nancy Baraza once termed as ‘very sad indeed’. It is no secret that both the 1970 and the mid-1990s parliaments shelved the bill because of their strong opposition to the proposed criminalisation of adultery and the non-recognition of polygamy. See, polygamy in particular is deemed to be part and parcel of “african” culture ergo any Western law that went against this was considered “Un-african”.
So now, thanks to Nancy Baraza and the good folks over at the Kenya Law Reform Commission, we now have a new Marriage Bill. A Bill that doesn’t criminalise adultery and expressly recognizes polygamous marriages. The question I would love to be answered by our women is whether a declaration by their spouse-to-be that their marriage is potentially polygamous would deter them from getting married in the first place? And perhaps more generally, does this provision promote/condone promiscuity by men in society?
My name is NV and I address this to all 222 of you, noble members of Kenya’s Legislature.
At the referendum ballot, Kenyans spoke unanimously in favour of a new Constitution which was subsequently promulgated by the Head of State. Now we look to you MPs to respect the will of the people and take on your noble job of legislating expeditiously with the best interests of your constituents and the entire nation at heart.
But as we know all too well, parliamentary legislation is often an exercise in contestation. Lies, propaganda and selfish pursuits often come into play. You cannot afford to gerrymander with this monumental task of enacting laws under the new constitution, nor infuse into it diversionary considerations, constructed from political posturing ahead of the 2012 elections.
As a nation, we will be vigilant and ensure that the implementation will follow the timelines laid out in the calendar established in the Fifth Schedule of the constitutional text. In addition to the timetable being respected, we will insist that the content of the legislation you enact must live up to the spirit and letter of the Constitution which inter alia, upholds the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law.
With that said, I would like to make two short points as you embark on your legislative functions at the dawn of Kenya’s new constitutional era. Continue reading →