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New law banning 'mpango wa kando' from lover's property is a misogynistic disgrace

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By Mary Kinyanjui | December 4th 2021

Both the “mpango wa kando” and the widow should be protected from male machinations of unequal gender relationships.

That such a law passed in a parliament where we have affirmative action for women is a disgrace.

Last week, the President signed into law the Bill prohibiting mpango wa kando from inheriting their lovers’ property.

The law does not protect the widow or the mpango wa kando but privileges the male gender. It pits two women against each other rather than the culprit, the man, who is the author of the relationship. By so doing, the law extends the subordination of women by men.

The law was introduced by an amendment bill of 2019 by Homa Bay MP Peter Kaluma. He introduced the Bill to stop the anguish of widows from secret lovers.

According to Kaluma, “Secret lovers are attention seekers and opportunists, who sprout from the shadows to enjoy the property. We want to do away with these attention seekers and opportunists who pop up out of nowhere and want a share of what they never worked for. They then end up locking out those who rightfully own the inheritance. This bill will protect true heirs in succession affairs, not the common friends we see surfacing.”

This is a law that should be opposed by all means. It does not protect the widow or the mpango wa kando. It is one straight path to misogyny and male privilege in relationships. It is based on stereotypes of women who live off men. Women, who are opportunists, seek to reap where they did not sow or worked hard for like the legitimate widow who is being denied inheritance.

It privileges the man. He can have multiple relationships legitimate and illegitimate ones. Some where he commits himself and others where he is non-committal. He can have the best of the two worlds without a finger being pointed at him. He can enjoy life with mpango wa kando without having any pain or fear of spoiling his name. The men arguing for the Bill were quick to point at the evils of mpango wa kando, but sadly, not those committed by the man.

The man is protected by the law in his love adventures. The man is promiscuous by nature, and he is allowed to take advantage of his wife at home and the mpango wa kando. He can choose to have whoever he wants without making a formal commitment to the mpango wa kando.

The mpango wa kando is vilified while the man is given a ticket to sainthood in spite of his love misadventures. He can be with whoever he chooses to be with without minding the repercussions especially those that occur with an untimely death.

The side woman is exposed to the vagaries of the cultural milieu that acknowledges such relationships but does not offer her protection in the case of death.

The mpango wa kando is a trend we have normalised in our culture in Kenya. In such an arrangement, the man has an alternative when things do not work well at home. For example, when the mama is sick, too old to be seen in public or generally when the man wants to feel more manly especially with midlife crises.

The mpango wa kando, who is usually a younger woman in age compared to the man, is exploited for her vulnerability and naiveness.

While the going is good, according to one of the MPs who supported the motion, ‘they should enjoy the power and high life they were attracted to, but should not think we shall let them dip their hands in the wealth’.

This means that the mpango wa kando should see herself as a pleasure toy and not assume she is in a meaningful long-lasting relationship. This is because when death strikes, she is left to fight for her own survival.

Although for all practical purposes she rendered the services of a wife to the man, she is not acknowledged as one. The law contradicts itself. It recognises the children born of that union but does not recognise the mother as a legitimate wife. The question is why recognise the children and not the mother, who was in partnership in bringing them forth?

The mpango wa kando is treated as a gold digger who does not deserve respect as a mother and wife. She is exposed to abuse and humiliation. The legitimate window is also not protected either from abuse or humiliation.  She is painted as a good woman because of enduring betrayal in their relationship.

This is stereotypical of a docile non-assertive wife who will take all nonsense in a relationship so that she can be ensured of an inheritance. She will live with the trauma of betrayal from her husband for the rest of her life. She had a right to divorce her adulterous husband while he was living. Face off the issue of property sharing with him rather than have to do it in death.  Both women in this law are losers. 

The law does not protect them. It protects the man with his property and his image.

Unless our women are educated on what it means to be in a relationship that respects their dignity, we shall have laws that seem to be benevolent to women but they are not. These laws reinforce women’s subordinate status to men.

They continue their abuse and misuse in relationships. Women should not marry for income or stick to a marriage because of the assumed income protection. Society should have safety nets that protect women from the vagaries of the economy.

 Women should also stress the importance of having recognisable legitimate unions. All marriages should be registered. We should say goodbye to mpango wa kando once and for all, by ensuring all unions are duly registered or formalised.

Both the mpango wa kando and the widow need to be protected from male machinations of unequal gender relationships. Whereby, the male gender is supreme and subordinates the women whether the legitimate widow or the mpango wa kando.

That such a law passed in a parliament where we have affirmative action for women is a disgrace because it pits the women against each other rather than addressing the culprit, who is the man.

The fact that it was being brought about by a man and largely supported by men is a further indication of misogyny. It continues to make the man the custodian of moral authority.

This perpetuates sexism in determining human relationships especially those between men and women.

 

The writer is a visiting lecturer, Gender Studies, Mount Holyoke College, Massachusets. [email protected]

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