Kenya president signs polygamy bill into law

[JURIST] Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday signed into law [press release] a controversial bill allowing polygamy. The Marriage Act 2014 brings civil law in line with customary law [BBC report], where some cultures allow a man to have multiple wives. The bill was approved by parliament last month after heated debate that caused female lawmakers to walk out because it allows men to marry additional women without consulting their first wives. The bill consolidates multiple laws [Capital FM report] relating to marriage and also provides for procedures relating to separation, divorce and custody.

Polygamy is currently legal and recognized in much of Africa and the Middle East, while it is widely illegal in North and South America, Europe and China. Polygamy—called bigamy when illegal—is criminalized in every state in the US. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [official website] in 2008 urged to Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive] outlaw polygamy [JURIST report], which it said is by its very nature counter to gender equality. The year before Indonesia upheld marriage laws limiting polygamy [JURIST report], despite teachings in the predominantly Islamic country's largest religion allowing men to take up to four wives. However, in 2006, a Canadian study urged the Canadian federal government to legalize polygamy [JURIST report] to help protect women and children in those relationships.

 

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