Kenya: Muslims Fault Clause on Polygamy in Bill

Nairobi, Kenya - Muslims have proposed amendments to clauses in the Marriage and Matrimonial Property Bill, 2007.

The National Muslims Leaders Forum (Namlef) want section 4(2)(a) of the Bill amended to spare Muslims declaring their intentions on polygamy before marriage.

Instead, they propose a new clause which directs that marriages among Muslims be conducted in accordance with the Koran.

Muslims also proposed changes in section 7 of the Bill that legalises "come-we-stay" relationships between couples who have lived together for two years, saying that Islam only recognises marriages through proper wedlock.

"As per Muslim practice, the only way two people of opposite sex and marriageable age can ever live together is by wedlock. Any other marriage is unacceptable," said Namlef.

Muslims also propose section 15 of the matrimonial Property Bill, 2007 be amended and women guaranteed the right to dowry in marriage.

The section removes the invalidity of marriage based on non-payment of dowry but Muslims have stressed that dowry is pre-requisite in Islam and their women should not be subjected to that act.

They also want the duty of maintaining families be left to men as opposed to the proposal in section 48 that states that either of the spouse has a duty to maintain the other and provide him or her with accommodation, food and clothing.

"In Islam, even if the wife earns more than her husband, she is not obliged to maintain the household. Her duties begin and end with child-rearing and housekeeping."

Muslim clerics have underscored several other clauses, notably the one on property.

They said section 5 guarantees equality in sharing of matrimonial property between couples in polygamous marriages and averts discrimination where first wives are given greater stakes.

Nominated MP Sheikh Mohammed Dor said the section is in line with Islamic traditions where all women in a polygamous marriages are accorded the same treatment.

He, however, said a woman with four children in such a marriage should not receive an equal share with her co-wife if she has fewer children.Muslims hailed a provision that allows women to own separate property from joint matrimonial property.