26 March 2014

Kenya: Churches Ask Uhuru to Snub Marriage Bill

A section of the church has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign the contentious Marriage Bill into law. The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya says if assented, the bill will among other things reverse gains made in the fight against HIV-Aids and increase property wrangles.

Addressing the media at Biblica House yesterday, the church leaders condemned the amendments made to the bill by Parliament last week. They said the amendments will affect the stability of the family as the basis of the society.

In a joint statement that was read by Christ is the Answer Ministries Bishop David Oginde, the leaders said if passed in its current state, the bill will legalise polygamy and further lead to dissolving of marriages "anytime". "Let us give sober and informed decisions to family issues, and not attempt to weaken it," Oginde said.

He said the changes are against Biblical teachings and principles on marriage. "The state is as solid as its families and so all laws should be made to strengthen, not weaken the family," Oginde said.

The debate on the bill degenerated into a battle between female legislators and their male counterparts when it was brought to the floor of the House. It was set for final reading in Parliament yesterday. Oginde said the line of faithfulness amongst couples in a polygamous union is blurred.

"How do you ensure faithfulness in polygamy? We submit that the fight against Aids is weakened by prevalence of polygamy, as the mpango wa kando can be practiced by the multiple sex partners, thus leading to infection," he said. Oginde said polygamy in the past operated in a cultural context that has since been overtaken by events and time.

He said the clause on obtaining consent prior to marrying a second wife is not tenable. "It is clear that women will not consent," the Bishop said. "How will polygamy operate without the consent aspect?" "We are promoting an old practice in modern context, which is like putting new wine in an old wineskin, it will burst."

Oginde said based on information from the Hansard, Parliament amended Clause 65 of the bill to include two additional grounds for divorce in the Christian marriage. "These are extreme depravity and irretrievable breakdown in marriage," he said.

"The Bible is clear on the ideal marriage. It is between one man and one woman. We appreciate that polygamy is a reality, but it is clear that from the existing marriage laws, Kenya intended to promote monogamy."

Hailing the recently passed Matrimonial Property Bill, the leaders said polygamy will create "a hot bed for property wrangles". "It is crucial that beliefs and practices of each religion be appreciated so long as they promote morality and societal good," the leaders said.

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