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Leaders oppose the proposed Marriage Bill

By Marion Ndung’u and Mangoa Mosota

There was mixed reaction over proposal by Cabinet to legalise “come-we-stay” arrangement unions.

Maendeleo Ya Wanaume has come out to declare displeasure with the Bill that legalises ‘come-we stay’ unions after six months, saying men were disadvantaged.

Chairperson of the group Nderitu Njoka said the Bill was marginalising men, adding that it was wrong to force people to get married just because they have been living together.

He said it was a constitutional right for individuals to stay in ‘come-we-stay’ unions and the law must not be used to force people into marriage when they are not ready.

“Marriage is done willingly by two people and no law should force anyone to get married,” said Njoka.

He, however, supported the proposition to abolish dowry, saying that none of the parties to a marriage is more special than the other.

“We support the Matrimonial Property Bill, which provides for couples to acquire property separately,” added Njoka.

He said some people got into marriage so as to accrue a right to their partners’ property, saying that men are especially vulnerable. Njoka said those in these unions are grown-ups who know what they are getting into when they live together.

A Nyeri-based lawyer Wahome Gikonyo has said the Bill was treating marriage in a casual manner. He said although the Bill intends to have a positive impact, it has a negative impact as it forces individuals who are not ready for marriage to get into the institution.

“Dowry is an inherent part of our culture, not just in Africa but in the world,” said Gikonyo.

He said abolishing of dowry was going contrary to the Constitution as it provides for the preservation and promotion of every culture.

Meanwhile, a cross section of people in Western Kenya have criticised a number of provisions in the Marriage Bill, saying they were unworkable.

Bishop Bineah Salala of ACK, Mumias Diocese dismissed the Bill, saying it should be taken back to the Cabinet for review.

“Who did the Cabinet consult? There are many controversial issues that it has proposed to legalise, and I believe the contentious provision should be looked at afresh,” said Salala.

He said many provisions of the Bill such as polygamy clash with doctrines of many churches, adding the Church should have been consulted. Vice-President of East Africa Law Society James Mwamu said formalising of ‘come-we-stay’ union, lasting six months is not practicable.

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