The Judiciary has proposed a bill that could revolutionize the way marital relationships are perceived and regulated in Kenya.
Wedded people with intentions of marrying outside wedlock will be free to seek other partners even if their spouses are still alive if a new bill proposed by the Judiciary becomes law.
Chief Justice Martha Koome’s proposal aims to repeal several sections of the Penal Code, most notably Section 171, which addresses the offense of Bigamy.
Unions affected by the proposed law include marriages under religious weddings and legally recognised customary marriages.
Under the current law, it is illegal for a married individual to enter into another marriage while their spouse is still alive, unless they are legally separated. Violation of this law can result in a felony charge and a prison sentence of up to five years.
”Provided that this section shall not extend to any person whose marriage with the husband or wife has been declared void by a court of competent jurisdiction, nor to any person who contracts a marriage during the life of a former husband or wife if the husband or wife, at the time of the subsequent marriage, has been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years, and has not been heard of by such person as being alive within that time,” the section states.
However, the proposed amendments seek to eliminate these restrictions, allowing married individuals to seek other partners even if their spouses are still alive. This significant change would apply to all forms of marriages, including religious weddings and legally recognized customary marriages.
The current Penal Code, in Section 172, also penalizes individuals who enter into marriage with fraudulent intentions, such as dishonesty or a hidden motive to commit fraud.
”Any person who dishonestly or with a fraudulent intention goes through the ceremony of marriage, knowing that he is not thereby lawfully married, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years,” the section states.
This provision would potentially be affected by the proposed changes.
While the proposal is generating significant debate, it does not touch on the Marriage Act of 2014, which addresses the issue of polygamy. This Act, which allows men to have multiple wives under specific conditions, remains unchanged.
The Marriage Act of 2014 on polygamy was assented into law by former President Uhuru is not included in the Amendment Bill.
The Bill was passed in Parliament in March 2014 with most male MPs supporting it while female lawmakers fiercely opposed it.
Cases of infidelity and bigamy have been a matter of concern and have led to numerous legal battles. The new proposal, if enacted into law, would offer individuals more freedom in their marital choices.