NAIROBI, Kenya, April 30, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta signed Marriage Bill 2014 on Tuesday, legalizing polygamous “marriages” between one man and multiple women.
“Parties to a marriage have equal rights and obligations at the time of marriage, during the marriage and at the dissolution of the marriage. All marriages registered under the Act have the same legal status,” he said in a statement.
Although strongly criticized by the nation's Christian leaders and the Kenya's Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the new law was hailed by some as a return to traditional African practices, shorn of Western Christian influence.
“In Africa, polygamy is a way of life, and when you're making a law you must go back to what the society wants,” said Nderitu Njoka, the chairman of Men's Empowerment and Development in Kenya.
Kenyan lawyer Judy Thongori blamed the existing taboo on British colonial laws, which do not account for the practice of many Kenyan ethnic groups, which practice multiple partner “marriage.”
Female lawmakers walked out during the proceedings that led to the bill's passage. The new law does not require that a man get his wife's approval before taking another wife. Legislators removed a measure to institute a spousal veto.
“I have to say that the proposal…to recognize in law the right of men to have as many wives as they like was cowardly and will be a backward step for Kenya if it becomes law,” Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said.
The effect of redefining marriage, whether by number of partners or their sexes, he said, “is to cheapen rights so that they become a demand, that we tolerate individual preferences that are destructive of our moral fabric.”
He also opposed same-sex “marriage.” To use the law of the land to legislate for an activity which is against the natural order, and consistently described as sinful in the Scriptures, is a very serious step which strikes at the heart of family life. It is a repudiation of God and his Word which should make us tremble and cry out for his mercy,” he said.
Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) said, “The tone of that bill, if it becomes law, would be demeaning to women, since it does not respect the principle of equality of spouses in the institution of marriage.”
He also condemned continual Western pressure to redefine marriage by allowing same-sex nuptials. “To use the law of the land to legislate for an activity which is against the natural order, and consistently described as sinful in the Scriptures, is a very serious step which strikes at the heart of family life,” he said.
Although the law allows men to take multiple wives who are at least 18, polyamorous “marriages” of one woman to many men are still illegal. So, too, are homosexual “marriages.”
However, some media outlets note the bill does not explicitly bar the practice in some areas of older women “marrying” younger women, who then bring a man into the relationship to father a child.
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Christian ministries in the nation held firm that any redefinition of marriage would harm children, the state, and the health of Kenya's 43 million people.
“Let us give sober and informed decisions to family issues, and not attempt to weaken it,” Christ is the Answer Ministries Bishop David Oginde said, reading a statement produced by many Kenyan church leaders. “The state is as solid as its families and so all laws should be made to strengthen, not weaken the family.”
“How do you ensure faithfulness in polygamy? We submit that the fight against AIDS is weakened by prevalence of polygamy,” they said.