Kenya will soon be a country of single parents

By OYUNGA PALA

Any parent looking for a secure career option for their child should consider law. Relationship lawyers are the ‘MPs’ of the future.

That is where the money is. There will be no shortage of work. When a young person wants to get married or leave a marriage, the most important person to consult will not be some church elders or parents, but a smart lawyer.

The proposed Marriage Bill 2013 that caused a media ruckus last week will surely see the death of courtship. While courtships used to be about wooing, it will change to woes, and most suitors will be facing (law) suits if they make promises they cannot keep.

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While we cannot dispute that they are some empowering aspects to the Bill in regard to women’s rights, our society has ceded marriage resolution entirely to the courts.

We have one foot in the age of prenuptials, and I don’t think it will be pretty. I know it is modern, the American way of the make-believe marriages we see on TV.  As a society, we are dealing with marriage in the same way we have dealt with corruption, enacting laws to deal with the symptoms and conveniently ignoring the root causes.

For men, it will be like living on Migingo Island, between a rock and a hostile eternity that constantly reminds one of where the true authority lies.

In the court of law dealing with relationships and marriage, gender profiling always raises its ugly head. Men are villains and women the perennial victims. A man can walk into court seeking legal redress for marital grievance, but if he hopes to be taken seriously, he has to show up with real evidence of grievous bodily harm. Remember the battered man from Nyeri? The jokes have not stopped rolling because domestic violence is comedic when the man is a victim.

The reaction of the Kenyan men on social media captured the underlying dread. The smart ones knew the glory days were over. The innocents will be paying for the sins of their fathers. The new script for marriage is ‘till the courts do us part’. Adultery is grounds for divorce. We have always known that, only this time the female judge won’t be smiling when you use testosterone as a defence.

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We are entering an era where men will find themselves cooling off in jail for marital crimes that a bunch of no-nonsense elders would have resolved under a tree in an afternoon. Community participation and sanction has been thrown out, and in the waking future every little marital grievance will be dragged to court.

There used to be channels for marital dispute resolution. Evidence was sought and both parties consulted, and an amicable resolution was the preferred option. It was the old way. It was long, sometimes tedious, but it always worked from the premise that marriage disputes should never be about revenge.

In the long run, men will just end up getting emasculated, and a decade from now, women will be whining loudly about the death of masculinity. The decision to let the courts into our marital affairs might seem progressive for now, but, ultimately, we will end up being a nation of single parents by choice and a population of young people with daddy issues.

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Kenya single parents MPs