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Of Marriages, Bills, Ancillary matters...

COMMENTARY
By - Mugambi Nandi | July 28th 2013

By Mugambi Nandi

[email protected]

It is hardly surprising that the newly published Marriage Bill, 2013, has caused so much excitement among Kenyans, especially those who have not – and will not – read it.

 On our part, we have gone through the Bill with a fine-tooth comb, searching for loopholes that we may use to our full advantage and profit, should the Bill become law. In so doing, we have taken into consideration a few preliminary matters.

First, that the National Assembly has written to the Attorney General seeking to know who sponsored the Bill.

We are also very curious for this piece of intelligence.

Second, the Bill is timely. We have in place all the laws necessary for the implementation of the Constitution and the achievement of Vision 2030. A law on marriage is the only missing link. After it is passed, we will practically be living in the year 2030.

Third, we know that numbers do not lie, except on occasion. We have looked at the gender composition of the National Assembly. We know that Bills require numbers to pass. The tyranny of numbers!

Allow us, if you will, to divulge a little personal information. In our younger days we worked for a prestigious law firm.

Back then, we used to say that working in that law firm was like being in a marriage: those who were in it wished they were out and those who were out wished they were in! It must be in that context that one of the ancient books advises that marriage is not to be rushed into, but entered into soberly and reverently.

We have heard that people marry for company, lust, security, fame, to have children, to meet societal expectations, to have their bills paid by someone else or, believe it or not, to cure homosexuality. Some stay married for the same reasons.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Bill does not make a promise to marriage binding, but it allows a party that suffers loss due to a breach of a promise to marry, to sue for damages. Gentlemen (and bold ladies), feel free to make promises.

While at it, be aware that you may receive a letter from Ms Judy Thongori, along the lines below, which Mr Samuel Pickwick, a character in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, received on August 28, 1827:

“Sir, Having been instructed by Mrs. Martha Bardell to commence an action against you for a breach of promise of marriage, for which the plaintiff lays her damages at fifteen hundred pounds, we beg to inform you that a writ has been issued against you in this suit in the Court of Common Pleas; and request to know, by return of post, the name of your attorney in London, who will accept service thereof. We are, Sir, Your obedient servants, Dodson & Fogg, Solicitors.”

Back to the Marriage Bill: We were searching for loopholes, “in anticipation of the benefits of matrimony” (euphemism for fornication?), a phrase we heard recently in a play at the Phoenix Players theatre. A section of the Bill allows the Director of Marriages to correct errors on marriage certificates.

We are consulting our lawyers on whether we can claim that our marriage to Jane Waithera is a correctable error, in order to have it amended to read “Rose Nyakogelo”. As an aside, we are also trying to establish whether the Director of Marriages will have powers to direct marriages.

The current law requires a Christian marriage to be conducted in a place of worship with open doors, between 6am and 6pm.

It will delight a number of men and women (who, obviously, are not genuine Christians) to know that this provision, especially as it relates to open doors and day light hours, has been omitted in the Bill.

For the rest of us, it means that we may no longer be treated to the frequent spectacle of a scorned woman (usually older and perhaps uglier than the bride) hysterically objecting to a marriage, on national television.

If the Bill is passed, such a woman will now face a possible jail sentence of five years or a fine of one million shillings, should it be found that her objection was frivolous, malicious or fraudulent. Our advice to the woman: be warned!

In passing, we noted that the Bill requires a traditional marriage to be notified to the Director of Marriages, and for a man taking on additional wives to notify the Director whether his current wives approve of or object to his so doing. We also noted that the Bill allows for the annulment of a marriage if the bride is established to have been pregnant with another’s child, in blissful ignorance of the groom.

 Your marriage will also be annulled if you do not personally attend the ceremony. Gentlemen, apologies will no longer be accepted. How unfair? Finally, and to our delight, we noted that the law compels you to avail yourself of the benefits of matrimony, in other words consummate the marriage, as soon as practicable.

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