Kenya Polygamy Law Divides Country Along Religious Lines

Kenya Polygamy Law Divides Country Along Religious Lines

Kenyan legislators passed a new law legalizing polygamy countrywide. The parliamentary measure, which passed in March, allows men to marry multiple wives. Previously, men were restricted to one spouse. Last week, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta signed the measure into law, officially recognizing polygamy as a legalized institution of marriage.

“Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman whether in a monogamous or polygamous union,” the President said of the “Marriage Act of 2014.” He continued, “[The act] defines various types of marriages including monogamous, polygamous, customary, Christian, Islamic and Hindu marriages.”

The law originally stated that polygamous marriage was subject to the first wife’s approval, but male members of Kenya’s Parliament successfully intervened and removed the measure. There is no official legal limit to the number of women a man can now marry in Kenya.

Christian leaders in Kenya worry its new polygamy law will destroy the fabric of the family unit. They weighed in on the new measure with much disapproval.

“If polygamy is allowed, it will open the floodgates for all sorts of separations and divorces. That will surely hurt the family institution and the country at large will suffer,” said Kenyan Reverend David Gathanju.

“I think the law will cause more problems and confusion than it would solve,” said Bishop Joseph Methu. He continued, “We now begin a journey to see how it can be amended. I don’t think it’s good for us.”

Muslim leaders struck a far different chord and embraced the new polygamy laws, claiming it was sanctioned in the Quran.

“Those who can maintain more wives should be able to marry,” said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council leader.

Proponents of the law argued that polygamous marriage in Kenya was already a well-established cultural norm prior to its legalization.

Kenya now has five separate marriage laws on the books: Christian, Hindu, Islamic, polygamous, and monogamous.

Kenya is populated by a vast majority of Christians. Approximately 48% are Protestant and 23.5% Roman Catholic. Eleven percent of the country is of the Islamic faith.