Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Does Legal Recognition for Polygamy Further Women's Rights?

In Kenya, polygamy is not unusual among the Masai tribe.  But polygamy was not recognized by the Kenyan government as a proper marriage; only monogamy was.  Recently, though, the Kenyan government passed a law to recognize polygamy and it did so as a means to help women:

Before the new act was passed, they lacked legal protection because customary marriages were rarely registered and therefore not recognised in a court of law.

This left many women vulnerable. If a husband died, they could be disinherited, and their children risked losing their rights and legitimacy. Now a customary marriage will be treated as equal to Muslim, Christian, Hindu and civil ones, giving all wives legal recognition and rights.

Women's rights groups have hailed this aspect of the law. What they find absolutely unacceptable is that male parliamentarians used their majority to vote down a clause requiring a man to inform any existing wives of his intention to marry again.

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