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Thursday 23 October  
New marriage bill gets Kenyans pondering polygamy
Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya

New marriage bill gets Kenyans pondering polygamy

Published on : 20 November 2012 - 6:00am | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: Flickr/cscott2006)
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Kenya has mixed reactions to its cabinet’s recently approved Marriage Bill 2012. One of the most conversation-generating proposals of the bill is to legalize polygamy.

By Michael Kaloki, Nairobi

At the beginning of the 20th century, polygamy was a common practice among several of Kenya’s ethnic tribes. In some of them, a man was allowed to marry as many wives as he wanted under the stipulation that he take good care of them all, plus their children.

But if Kenyan Parliament passes the Marriage Bill 2012, polygamy won’t be restricted to certain tribes or, for that matter, religions. The bill has been structured to take into account Islamic, Christian, Hindu and traditional marriage provisions.

And some young people would welcome the revision.

“Having two or three wives is better than having one,” says Harry Bor, a local college student. “It is not sensible to put all your eggs in one basket. Commitment to one person is a 50-50 chance.”

Why can't women have multiple husbands, wonders Joyce Kinyua
Why can't women have multiple husbands, wonders Joyce Kinyua
Joyce Kinyua, a student at the University of Nairobi, seems concerned above all about the bill’s inequality. “I would consider having many husbands if given the opportunity. If a man can have more than one wife, why can’t a woman have more than one husband?” she asks.

Kenya’s existing marriage bill, which recognizes polygamy under Islamic and customary marriages, does not permit polyandry, the practice of having more than one husband.

Fellow University of Nairobi student Lucia Stella questions how sensible the new proposal is. “Whether the bill is passed or not, polygamy will still happen on the sidelines,” she says. “Polygamy is a problem at some point. When it comes to the distribution of wealth, some of the spouses might feel left out.”


Apart from the recognition of polygamy, the Marriage Bill 2012 seeks to recognize cohabiting couples as legally married if they have lived together for six months or more. A humorous invocation of the period observed among Kenyan Facebook users in recent days was the status update ‘Five months, 29 days’.

But not everyone feels ready to joke about it.

Simon Muraguri says polygamy could help if he expanded his businesses
Simon Muraguri says polygamy could help if he expanded his businesses
“After six months, you might not have even known the person well,” says Simon Muraguri, a businessman in Nairobi. He believes that two years would be a more reasonable timeframe.
 In fact, it’s for six years that Muraguri has been cohabiting with Teresiah Njeri. The pair runs a couple of enterprises in the Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, and it might not be a stretch to say that 
Muraguri’s livelihood provides a justification for his support of polygamy.

“If I had money invested in many businesses, I would like somebody to manage the businesses,” he says. “I would marry maybe another wife.”

To that, Njeri responds: “To me, polygamy is not good. Let us say the man will marry the second wife, yet I am the first wife. He won’t bother with me. He will concentrate on the second wife.”

Teresiah Njeri, cohabiting with Muraguri for six years, is wary of polygamy
Teresiah Njeri, cohabiting with Muraguri for six years, is wary of polygamy


Living down the street from the cohabiting couple is Bonny Ouma. He is currently separated from his wife with whom he shares a child, and his views on polygamy are a little different.

“It was good a long time ago, but nowadays it is outdated,” he says.

Ouma also cites the related costs in education, feeding and clothing. “It is very expensive to maintain two women,” he adds.

But for the marrying types who are saving their shillings, there’s a plus side. The Marriage Bill 2012 aims to make dowry payments an optional arrangement rather than a mandatory part of the marriage process.

“I don’t advocate for bride price because it’s more or less like buying a fellow human being,” Ouma says, despite his financial concerns. “It has to be natural love.”

Other restrictions
While the Marriage Bill 2012 gives polygamy the green light, it flashes red when it comes to marriages between certain relations. People would thus be forbidden from marrying blood relatives, step-parents and the former spouses of one’s grandchild, child, parent or grandparent, as well as anyone younger than 18.

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In a move seen as a measure to prevent controversy resulting from same-sex marriages, the bill defines marriage as the “voluntary union of a man and a woman intended to last for their lifetime”.

A provision, too, exists that would allow the union to be nullified if one of the partners is found to have been drunk, under the influence of drugs or insane at the time of consenting to the marriage.

Meanwhile, as matrimonial debates continue across Kenya, Bor, the Nairobi college student, has a tip for men with polygamy plans: don’t reveal such intentions until the courting is over. “If you tell one girl you [are] dating another girl, she will not stick around,” he says.


Jerod Moore 3 November 2013 - 7:40pm / united states

These are five things every individual (not just married people) needs in life, but we tend to look for them in all the wrong places. The most important of Structured settlement for cash. Expect to rescue from the dangers of living in the world. They fear the onslaught of terrible animals, natural disasters, diseases, accidents, and greater opportunity for someone in a bad time. Anyone can be the victim of a disaster. Preference under inhuman conditions can occur. Danger or disaster is always a prediction. Who can tell me which I never his danger or disaster in my life? Some meet each risk of disaster or emergency. It is clear that the bad times of crisis will must come. The feeling, you need to think about possible future crises. We know that many different types with different patterns of Crisis will come. Factor for the economic crisis of human suffering is more important for you.

In the first period, I think financial protection to achieve, which is to provide the best possible support. But in General, when life is normal, everything will be fine, there is no one in any future wants to think the crisis. In addition, I believe that life goes on. But is a person of God. God will save me and my family. Then it's because I'm using, it's not the best? It gave the idea, of course, and certainly Yes, the opportunity to go for refreshments. This type of error, on the basis of the idea brings misery. Men should support the economic stability of capital reserves. Secular buffer has only money during the crisis.

Anonymous 6 April 2013 - 8:37am

getting married is one of the difficult decisions that we could do because it is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives to that person. Thanks, 

IolaMiddleton 4 March 2013 - 12:18am

This is new for me. I mean it has advantages and disadvantages as well. I think this will prevent divorce in the future or security for the whole family. But i think there is no span of time that would tell if you can be legally wed or not. 

Anonymous 1 January 2013 - 4:57am / U.S.

I recently experienced an interesting situation and I am hoping someone in this forum will be able to enlighten me. I am an African American female who recently met and dated a man from Kenya. I clearly communicated to him that I was looking for a serious monogamous relationship. He said that he was divorced with three children and had not been home in years and that he had similar interest as I. Approximately 2 months into our relationship he returned home to Kenya (for a temporary visit) and I learned through Facebook that he had a wife in Kenya. African men here have a reputation for having a wife (or wives) in their homeland and coming to the states and marrying as well. I really don't like to judge people based on stereotypes, but my recent situation has caused me to research the Kenyan culture. I believe polygamy is illegal in most if not all of the United States. I realize that this particular man blatantly lied to me about his situation, but would it be normal for a man from Kenya to believe in polygamy and to exercise that belief system when traveling to other countries? If he has acquired U.S. citizenship, can he be charged as a polygamist while in the United States even if his other wives live outside of the country?

Outinkenya 25 November 2012 - 9:05am / Kenya

We are opposed to the marriage bill for all the above reasons but as well as:
1. It gives too much power to the chiefs who should not have any place in our private lives.
2. it explicitly denies same sex couple equal rights to marriage. We are equal citizens of Kenya, paying taxes, going on with our lives. We should be treated as such.

Opiyo Benjamin Abonyo 20 November 2012 - 3:16pm / Kenya

The act is too bad because it is much expensive as per the stringent economic conditions in Kenya to have two /more wives,instead save thelittle money that itches you to give your single wife and children better life;quality education,love and sparetime etc than what your parents gave you before .This helps to stabilize the family from quarrels ,hatred and other illmotives that usually occur in the polygamous family.

Anonymous 20 November 2012 - 11:53am / kenya

The marriage bill in Kenya is evil if not demonic .It should not be made law

washington Wanga 20 November 2012 - 7:47am / Kenya

God intends that a man is to marry one wife.All others that come on board are not wives but sinful friends.Women must recognize this and fight to retain one husband.Lust is what drives men to cohabit,cheat and remarry.

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