Kenya Passes Law Legalizing Polygamy Without Approval Of Existing Spouses

609px-Coat_of_arms_of_Kenya.svgKenya’s parliament has passed a law intended to codify the existing customary law allowing for multiple spouses. However, the legislators went further and removed a provision that would give the existing spouse or spouses the right to veto a marriage. After female legislators stormed out of the session in protest, MP Junet Mohammed explained “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa.”

The law shows the broad range of practices involving polygamy around the world. This is a clearly offensive version of the practice. As many know, I represent the Sister Wives in their successful challenge of the criminal polygamy law in Utah. However, the Brown family believes in divorce and the existing wives actually pick an additional wife under their faith.

There are also different forms of polygamy, which is an umbrella term. Polygamy actually refers to a broad array of different plural relationships from polygyny (with one husband and multiple wives, like the Browns) to polyandry (with a single wife and multiple husbands) to polyamory (with couples who reject exclusivity of sexual relations among married couples). The vast majority of these families are based on consenting relations of adults without abusive or criminal histories. For prior columns, click here and here.

The non-consensual element of this law is obviously outrageous and another denial of the rights of women. I do believe that both men and women have a right to engage in plural relationships like the “spiritual marriages” of the Browns. In Kenya, however, women are not allowed to marry more than one man.

The legislators noted that polygamy (though more accurately polygyny) has long been part of African and Islamic traditions. Legislators insist that the law only codifies what all women expect. Samuel Chepkong’a, chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee insisted “Any time a man comes home with a woman, that would be assumed to be a second or third wife . . . Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you’re coming home with a second or third wife. Any lady you bring home is your wife”.

190px-Prince_Manga_Bell_and_favorite_wivesThe legislators also removed a provision allowing for financial damages when a partner promises to marry someone and backs out. Presumably, that was also a change benefiting males. However, legislators insisted that they just want to guarantee that marriage is based on love not money — an unlikely prospect in a country where young girls are historically handed over into marriage by their families.

25 thoughts on “Kenya Passes Law Legalizing Polygamy Without Approval Of Existing Spouses”

  1. Dredd: How many men and women did God create and place in the Garden? How many denominations of so called Christian churches are there in this world? Do you believe like all of them?……………. I certainly don’t. The Pope is not my Pope, I am not Catholic. Nor Am I Evangelical, or Church of God, but I am Christian and belong to aa Christian Church. I do not believe all the philosophers, I do not believe all the Biblical scholars, If you believe them all you will be screwed up in the head. I BELIEVE MY BIBLE. It is man who insisted on many wives God gave Adam one mate and I believe Noah had one wife.

    Did not God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? And what was his reason for destroying them? Read your Bible, the answer is there, if you have one. Know it yourself before you call someone else foolish.

    Annieofwi: I believe we were discussing women being the subservient one not the male. The male choosing more than one wife not the woman. Yes a woman would be rather worn out but in years past women have been known to have as many as 12 +. At that time the men needed hands to work on farms or help the family business. They grew the food and bartered or traded for the clothing only the very rich had educations. Wouldn’t you say 12+ is enough of one man’s DNA to build a town very quickly if each followed in the footsteps of the father. Today, everyone needs an education and there are few family farms or businesses to sustain every kid and his offspring so……………………….. I suggest men should grow up and quit being left brains. Girls should do likewise. Someone has to educate the kids and feed them and it is not the place of his neighbors or the government to do that. For ever kid the man fathers, he should be prepared to educate and feed them. Deadbeats impregnate and leave the woman to fend for themselves. Silly women can make one mistake and the world should forgive her but twice, she should pay for it herself or track down the father and make him pay. Men who do such should be forced to pay for the life or lives they help bring into this world. It should not be my burden or yours or the govt. (our taxes) to educate, feed and care for them. . Oh yes,I do not believe in murder so I do not advocate abortion, I suggest being responsible adults.

    .”On a lighter note” ………. If a man cannot contain himself, ” Well here is a bar of soap” hit the showers. or snip/snip.

  2. skeptic

    … This is nothing but approval of the advancement of shariah law.

    I suggest you read your Bible, then the discussion about marriage by biblical scholars as it appears and does not appear there.

    Then you may appear less foolish and more informed.

    Assuming that is what you want.

  3. dagda

    … the federal courts have over-turned the idea of traditional marriages …
    Myth lover eh?

    It is bible scholars who have overturned that myth.

    Myths are not allowed to violate the U.S. Constitution, and neither may they come into the bedroom of consenting adults uninvited.

  4. Spinelli, focus. I was responding in part to Skeptic’s comment, besides it should be evident I’m speaking of polygamy and the legalization of it HERE in this country.

  5. I was not aware there was AFDC in Kenya. Do they also have Obamacare?

  6. On a lighter note, a woman would get worn out very quickly with more than one husband, one pregnancy after another, each husband wanting to make sure his DNA gets expressed in the next generation too. Biologically speaking, women are needed in greater numbers to advance the species than men. One man could impregnate numerous women. Being a plural wife could actually give the woman a break from child bearing, depending on the husband’s virility I suppose.

    Having said all that, I agree that taxpayers should not be responsible for the care of the multiple wives and children. Make polygamy legal and make the husband take care of his own children, no AFDC anymore if they are legally married.

  7. Only men would approve of this, and misguided women. This is nothing but approval of the advancement of shariah law. Professor, I am in total disagreement with you. Who pays for all of these kids to get educated and have a life from themselves. What next approval of pedophilia and incest. I am very surprised that our CURRENTpresident has not made this a law in our country, considering his dislike for the Americans. ” The Ugly Americans” as he called us when writing his book , “Dreams of my Father”.

    Disgusting. This is the doing of men who want women to be subservient and have a total lack of respect for them. In short a way to have all the sex slaves they want in due time. Already in this country there is a faction of men that go from house to house, have all the perks of a husband but leave and the government has to take care of the offspring. I say cut their balls off and and put them on a chain gang until they have fully worked long enough to pay for the education and upbringing of their illegitimate kids. No wonder we have so many people and kids dependent on the hard working responsible people who pay for their own families and pay taxes. The deadbeat dad usually does day jobs (cash only) or temporary jobs that will sustain him for awhile (no more then 6 mo) and he still is on the government payroll. The sexual partners usually have a job (low paying) and several illegitimate kids and are usually collecting from Uncle Sam to help raise the kids. I have seen this firsthand. It is rampant in the many of the lower income areas of the US. Each woman with kids with deadbeat dad should have to prove who the dad is and put his backside to work on a real job, not having more kids for Uncle Sam to support. Tax them for all the kids they have and do not support or jail their asses and put them to work to recoup the money they owe this country. If you have a kid, you support it !!!!!!!!!!!!! If you abort it, you pay for that!!!!!!!!!!!! These are the people Obama turned the insurance/health industry upside down to insure. These are the people who go to the emergency room for a runny nose instead of a doctor.

    Again, I ask who will take care of all those kids…………………It is counties like America that will be taking those starving wives and kids food and water while the deadbeat father goes their merry way.


  8. This could be coming to your neighborhood. Since the federal courts have over-turned the idea of traditional marriages, polygamy and polyandry fit right in. rafflaw, it used to be a partnership, but the rules have really changed haven’t they.

  9. What Swarthmoremom said. I have no problem with polygamy, but all parties should be equal in who joins or doesn’t join. No spouse should be the ultimate authority on any issue. It is supposed to be a partnership, isn’t it?

  10. When in Kenya …. Do as the Kenyans…. When in Washington…. Do as Michelle says…..

  11. unveil

    Malik Obama, our president’s Kenyan half brother, supposedly has …
    I supposedly rely on your supposition ‘cept for I don’t.

  12. In a culture where muscles still have more value than brains, men can dominate. As a culture progresses through an industrial revolution where machines can do everything better then male muscles, then brains have more value than muscles. That is the case in more advanced countries, not yet in more primitive cultures.

  13. swarthmoremom

    “However, the Brown family believes in divorce and the existing wives actually pick an additional wife under their faith. “JT Can the Brown wives pick a husband or wife( if they are gay or bisexual) on their own? No, they can only be married to ONE man….misogynistic closed system.
    Under the eyes of the state perhaps, but not the Bible?

    One thingy:

    A trio of Iowa-based religious scholars penned an op-ed in a local paper this week, reminding readers that despite popular opinion, the Bible does not simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.

    The joint editorial was written by Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson and published in the Des Moines Register on Sunday. The men teach at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, respectively.

    “The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy.”

    (Biblical Marriage Not Defined Simply As One Man, One Woman: Iowa Religious Scholars’ Op-Ed).

    One person’s myth is another person’s mantra.

  14. “However, the Brown family believes in divorce and the existing wives actually pick an additional wife under their faith. “JT Can the Brown wives pick a husband or wife( if they are gay or bisexual) on their own? No, they can only be married to ONE man….misogynistic closed system.

  15. Sounds good to me. Three is the figure I independently came to myself. Its more harmonious than two. I used to take the train right through Kenya to get to school in Tanganyika, from Uganda. 800 miles from Kampala to Nairobi to the Usumbura Mountains, south east of Kilimanjaro. Still plan to climb that beautiful mountain.

  16. You can argue all you want but a law that permits multiple wives is regressive and oppressive. Are some women accepting because the are told that is what “god” wants of course; however, making it legal puts women at risk. Sorry professor on this one I disagree with you.

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