10 November 2012

Kenya: Country to Legalize Polygamy but Ban Bride-Price Payments

Nairobi — Kenya's cabinet has passed a bill allowing polygamous marriages, while banning the payment of bride-price for marriages. The law, when finally enacted by the parliament, will also consider couples co-habiting for more than six months to be legally married.

In an article published on Friday by the BBC News Africa, the cabinet said the bill aimed to offer legal protection to all forms of marriages in the country - Christian, Islamic, Hindu, civil and traditional. It is also intended to give women and children protection under the law.

The BBC's Muliro Telewa in the capital, Nairobi, says the decision to stop the age-old custom of bride price is one of the most contentious of the proposals to harmonise the East African nation's marriage laws.

Bride prices are commonly paid by most of Kenya's more than 40 ethnic groups.

Current customary law stipulates that a marriage is not considered legal unless a bride price has been paid, usually in the form of cows.

Such customary laws in marriages are shared across many countries in Africa including South Sudan where bride-price ranges from few goats or sheep to hundreds of cows, or the equivalent in money, for a bride.

South Sudan's law is silent about polygamy or how many wives a man is allowed to marry but polygamy is a widely acceptable practice in several communities in the region.

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