The social media has been packed with sarcastic jokes in reaction to the proposed Marriage Bill 2012, which was recently approved by cabinet and tabled in parliament for debate. Of interest to many Kenyans was the clause that seeks to convert “come-we –stay” arrangements lasting for more than six months into legal marriages.
The Bill, according to a presidential press statement, seeks to bring together the Christian, Islamic and Hindu marriage laws and marriages agreed under Civil and African Customary law.
“COME-WE-STAY” – OR PERHAPS NOT…
A Kevin Gichuru however, wrote on his wall that “my relationships will now officially last for five months, 29 days!” Another Facebook user Clare Juma wrote; “I am looking for a guy’s place where I can crash for six months only.”
Over the years cohabiting in Kenya, commonly known as “come-we-stay”, has become quite popular especially among the youth.
Reasons for cohabiting vary but the most common ones are cost sharing, which is quite popular especially among those in college or campus; couples simply wanting to taste the waters before they can commit to marriage; and others are simply playing safe in fear of commitment.
Many women will no doubt feel relieved that finally there will be a law that will protect them from ‘stringers’, while not a few men are of the opinion that the proposed bill is out to force them into involuntary marriages.
CATHOLIC CHURCH OPPOSITION
However, according to Fr Vincent Wambugu, Secretary General of Kenya Episcopal Conference, the provisions will cheapen marriages and has announced that the Catholic Church will petition parliament to remove them.
THE PRICE OF A BRIDE
The Bill also makes it optional to pay bride price, another area that has been criticised for going against tradition.
The African tradition requires a man to pay bride price to the parents of his wife-to-be and in many cases the demands made by the bride’s family are often outrageous. A good number of eligible bachelors known to this Kenya Forum correspondent are still single because they could not afford to pay the hefty bride price asked by their would be in-laws.
“Thus we understand that marriage is honourable, instituted by God at creation and hallowed by the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Marriage is therefore not to be entered into lightly, but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God”.
MONOGAMY AND POLYGAMY
The marriage bill also provides that marriages will be monogamous, or polygamous or potentially polygamous if conducted under customary or Islamic Law. In the latter cases the Bill sets out how property should be shared which hopefully will put an end to the lengthy and often acrimonious court so often witnessed when such marriages break up or the husband dies.
To try to clarify the confusion under the new Constitution on the question of same-sex marriage, the Bill clearly defines marriage as a ‘voluntary union of a man and a woman intended to last for life’. The Kenya Forum however says watch this space because the new Constitution also appears to sign Kenya up to international law and agreements which might take a contrary position.
The Marriage Bill 2007 was originally proposed in 1981, but was not voted on as the then male- dominated parliament felt the bill was granting women “too many rights”. It was reintroduced in March 2009 and tabled last week for debate in parliament.
MARRIAGE: NOT TO BE ENTERED INTO LIGHTLY…
Well the Kenya Forum recommends to its unmarried readers (for married readers it’s too late!) that they take heed of these words heard at just about every Christian wedding: “Thus we understand that marriage is honourable, instituted by God at creation and hallowed by the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Marriage is therefore not to be entered into lightly, but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God”.
Remember, marriage, according to the new Marriage Bill 2012, is intended to last for life, but as some wag put it, you can serve less time in prison for murder!